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Edited by 

Qeyamuddin Ahmad 

India-the Land and the People« 

:o £ 

India—The Land and the People 




Abridged Edition of 
Dr. Edward C. Sachau s 
English Translation 


With Introduction and Notes 


Qeyamuddin Ahmad 


National Book Trust, India 

ISBN 81-237-0289-2 

First Edition 1983 

Second Edition 1988 

First Reprint 1992 

Second Reprint 1993 (Saka 1914) 

© National Book Trust, India, 1983 


Published by the Director, National Book Trust, India 
A-5 Green Park, New Delhi -110 016 


Editor’s Introduction 

List of Greek Words in the Text xxxin 



On The Hindus In General, As An Introduction To 7 

Our Account Of Them 


On The Belief Of The Hindus In God 13 


On The Hindu Belief As To Created Things, Both 16 

“Intelligibilia” And “Sensibilia” 


From What Cause Action Originates, And How The 22 

Soul Is Connected With Matter 


On The State Of The Souls, And Their Migrations 25 
Through The World In The Metempsychosis 


On The Different Worlds, And On The Places Of 28 
Retribution In Paradise And Hell 


On The Nature Of Liberation From The World, And 32 
On The Path Leading Thereto 

* Al-Biruni’s own synopsis of the single chapters of the book. 

The page numbers of the chapters are of the present abridged edition. 


India by Al-Biruni 


On The Different Classes of Created Beings, And 39 
On Their Names 


On The Castes, Called “Colours” ( Varna), And On The 44 
Classes Below Them 


On The Source Of Their Religious And Civil Law, On 48 
Prophets, And On The Question Whether Single 
Laws Can be Abrogated Or Not 


About The Beginning Of Idol-Worship, And A 51 
Description Of The Individual Idols 


On The Veda, The Puranas, And Other Kinds Of 57 
Their National Literature 


Their Grammatical And Metrical Literature 63 


Hindu Literature In The Other Sciences, Astronomy, 69 
Astrology, Etc. 


Notes On Hindu Metrology, Intended To Facilitate 75 
The Understanding Of All Kinds Of Measurements 
Which Occur In This Book 


Notes On The Writing Of The Hindus, On Their 79 
Arithmetic And Related Subjects, And On Certain 
Strange Manners And Customs Of Theirs 


On Hindu Sciences Which Prey On The Ignorance Of 




Various Notes On Their Country, Their Rivers, And 
Their Ocean, Itineraries Of The Distances Between 
Their Several Kingdoms, And Between The Bound¬ 
aries Of Their Country 


On The Names Of The Planets, The Signs Of The 
Zodiac, The Lunar Stations, And Related Subjects 


On The Brahmanda 


Descriptions Of Earth And Heaven According To The 
Religious Views Of The Hindus, Based Upon Their 
Traditional Literature 


Traditions Relating To The Pole 

On Mount Meru According To The Belief Of The 
Authors Of The Puranas And Of Others 


. Traditions Of The Puranas Regarding Each Of The 
Seven Dvipas 

On The Rivers Of India, Their Sources And Courses 

On The Shape Of Heaven And Earth According To 
The Hindu Astronomers 


On The First Two Motions Of The Universe (That 
From East To West According To Ancient Astro¬ 
nomers And The Precession Of The Equinoxes), 
Both According To Hindu Astronomers And The 
Authors Of The Puranas 

vm India by Al-Biruni 


On The Definition Of The Ten Directions 

Definition Of The Inhabitable Earth According To 
The Hindus 


On Lanka, Or The Cupola Of The Earth 

On That Difference Of Various Places Which We Call 
The Difference Of Longitude 


On The Notions Of Duration And Time In General, 
And On The Creation Of The World And Its 







On The Various Kinds Of The Day Or Nychthemeron. 
And On Day And Night In Particular 


On The Division Of The Nychthemeron Into Minor 
Particles Of Time 


On The Different Kinds Of Months And Years 

On The Four Measures Of Time Called Mana 

On The Parts Of The Month And The Year 

On The Various Measures Of Time Composed Of 
Days, The Life Of Brahman Included 

Contents ix 


On Measures Of Time Which Are Larger Than The 168 
Life Of Brahman 


On The Samdhi, The Interval Between Two Periods 169 
Of Time, Forming The Connecting Link Between 


Definition Of The Terms “Kalpa” And “Caturyuga”, 171 

And An Explication Of The One By The Other 


On The Division Of The Caturyuga Into Yugas, And 173 
The Different Opinions Regarding The Latter 


A Description Of The Four Yugas, And Of All That 175 
Is Expected To Take Place At The End Of The 
Fourth Yuga 


On The Manavantaras 179 


On The Constellation Of The Great Bear 180 


On Narayana, His Appearance At Different Times, 182 

And His Names 


On Vasudeva And The Wars Of The Bharata 184 


An Explanation Of The Measure Of An Akshauhini 187 


A Summary Description Of The Eras 189 


India by Al-Biruni 


How Many Star-Cycles There Are Both In A Kalpa 195 
And In A “Caturyuga” 


An Explanation Of The Terms “Adhimasa”, “Una- 197 
ratra”. And The “Aharganas”, As Representing 
Different Sums Of Days 


On The Calculation Of “Ahargana” In General, That 200 
Is, The Resolution Of Years And Months Into Days, 

And, Vice Versa, The Composition Of Years And 
Months Out Of Days 


On The Ahargana, Or The Resolution Of Years Into 202 
Months, According To Special Rules Which Are 
Adopted In The Calendars For Certain Dates Or 
Moments Of Time 


On The Computation Of The Mean Places Of The 203 


On The Order Of The Planets, Their Distances And 205 


On The Stations Of The Moon 208 


On The Heliacal Risings Of The Stars, And On The 211 
Ceremonies And Rites Which The Hindus Practise 
At Such A Moment 


How Ebb And Flow Follow Each Other In The Ocean 213 




On The Solar And Lunar Eclipses 216 


On The Parvan 219 


On The Dominants Of The Different Measures Of 220 
Time In Both Religious And Astronomical Relations, 

And On Connected Subjects 


On The Sixty Years—Samvatsara, Also Called 221 


On That Which Especially Concerns The Brahmans, 223 
And What They Are Obliged To Do During Their 
Whole Life 


On The Rites And Customs Which The Other Castes, 228 
Besides The Brahmans, Practise During Their 


On The Sacrifices 230 


On Pilgrimage And The Visiting Of Sacred Places 232 


On Alms, And How A Man Must Spend What He 235 


On What Is Allowed And Forbidden In Eating And 237 

India by Al-Biruni 



On Matrimony, The Menstrual Courses, Embryos, 239 
And Childbed 


On Lawsuits 243 


On Punishments And Expiations 245 


On Inheritance, And What Claim The Deceased 248 

Person Has On It 


About What Is Due To The Bodies Of The Dead And 251 
Of The Living (i.e. About Burying And Suicide) 


On Fasting, And The Various Kinds Of It 254 


On The Determination Of The Fast-Days 256 


On The Festivals And Festive Days 258 


On Days Which Are Held In Special Veneration, On 263 

Lucky And Unlucky Times, And On Such Times 
As Are Particularly Favourable For Acquiring In 
Them Bliss In Heaven 

On The Karanas 

On The Yogas 






On The Introductory Principles Of Hindu Astrology, 269 
With A Short Description Of Their Methods Of 
Astrological Calculations 

Select References 275 

Notes 277 

Index 291 


ACV, Al-Biruni Commemoration Volume, 1951. 

IC, Islamic Culture. 

II, Indo-Iranka published by the Iran Society, Calcutta. 

JBORS, Journal of Bihar & Orissa Research Society. 

JPHS, Journal of Pakistan Historical Society. 

Editor's Introduction 

My book is nothing but a simple historic record of facts. I shall 
place before the readers the theories of the Hindus exactly as they are, 
and I shall mention in connection with them similar theories of Greeks 
in order to show the relationship existing between them. .. . 

Before entering on our exposition,we must form an adequate idea of 
that which makes it so particularly difficult to penetrate to the essential 
nature of any Indian subject. The knowledge of these difficulties will 
either facilitate the progress of our work, or serve as an apology for any 
shortcoming of ours. ... 

First, they differ from us in everything which other nations have in 
common. A nd here we first mention the language. . .. If you want to 
conquer this difficulty (ie. to learn Sanskrit), you will not find, it easy 
because the language is of enormous range, both in words and 
inflections. .. . 

Add to this that the Indian scribes are careless, and do not take pains 
to produce correct and well-collated copies. . .. 

Secondly, they totally differ from us in religion. . .. They consider as 
impure anything which touches the fire and the water of a foreigner.. .. 

In the third place, in all manners and usages they differ from us... . 
with our dress, and our ways and customs. . . . 

There are other causes. ... [such as] peculiarities of their national 
character. .. . 

Now such is the state of things in India. I have found it very difficult 
to work my way into the subject, although I have a great liking for it ... 
and although I do not spare either trouble or money in collecting 
Sanskrit books. . .. 

Ignoring the rather old style of writing, these lines may easily 
be mistaken as extracts from the introduction of some recent book on 
India by a foreign social scientist. Actually these have been taker 
from the opening pages of a book which was written by a man bom a. 
little over one thousand years ago. Its author was alien to Indian 
culture but he made such an extraordinarily conscientious effort to 


India by Al-Biruni 

understand it and to present it sympathetically to his own people that 
he has been rightly hailed as ‘the first of the scientific Indologists, 
and one of the greatest of all times.’ 1 The title of the book is Kitdbji 
Tahqiq ma li'l Hind min Maqala Maqbo/a fi'l Wql ao MardhTila , popularly 
referred to as Kitabul Hind , and its author was Abu Raihan 
Muhammad ibn Ahmad, more commonly called Al-Biruni. 2 

Al-Biruni was bom in A.D. 973 in the territory of Khwarizm, 3 then 
under the control of the Samanid ruling dynasty (874-999) of 
Transoxiana and Persia. He was not born within the city itself but in 
a suburban area: hence the epithet of Al-Biruni, which has almost 
substituted his name in popular usage. Biruni is a Persian word, 
meaning ‘of or belonging to the outside* in the present context it 
denotes the outskirts of the town of Khwarizm. 4 

Some early Arabic works, dealing with the life of Al-Biruni, state 
that Birun was the name of a town in Sindh, and that Al-Biruni was 
so-called because he was born there. This, however, is a mis¬ 
conception which seems to have arisen because there was a town 
named Nirun in Sindh, and due to the copyist's error it was misread 
as Birun and it came to be regarded as Al-Biruni’s birth-place. 5 6 The 
latter’s keen interest in Indian culture was perhaps taken as indicative 
of his Indian origin. 

Al-Biruni was a Muslim of Iranian origin. Not much is known 
about his early life^and upbringing, but he seems to have had very 
good opportunities of learning during his childhood. He remained an 

1 S.K. Chatteiji, ‘Al-Biruni and Sanskrit*, Al-Birum Commemoration Volume, 1951, 
(hereafter cited as ACV), p. 83. 

2 Opinions differ about the correct transliteration of this word. For a discussion see 
A C V, pp. XIV, 195-196, 290. Edward C. Sachau, editor and translator of Kitabul 
Hind, has spelled it Al-Beruni, but I have preferred the spelling Al-Biruni, adopted by 
the Iran Society in ACV. 

3 The modem Khiva. A Khanate of Turkistan in Central Asia in the 19th century, it is 
now part of the Uzbekistan Republic of USSR. 

4 It has also been suggested that although Al-Biruni was bom in Khwarizm, his 
parents were of Persian origin and would have been regarded as strangers to the place; 
hence the ‘Persian nickname of Biruni (outsiders)*. A. Yusuf Ali, ‘ AlBiruni’s India’, 
Islamic Culture, Vol. I, 1927, p. 33. 

5 Abdus Salam Nadvi, ‘Al-Biruni* (in Urdu), ACV, p. 255. 

6 Definite information is not available about Al-Biruni’s religious beliefs, and 
opinions vary on the point. 

Hitti, ( History of the Arabs, 1968 edition, p. 377) calls him a ‘Shiite with agnostic 
leanings* while ACV (p. XIV) mentions him as a ‘Sunni Muslim by conviction with 
Ismailian sympathies in religion and universalist tendencies in philosophy.’ 

Editor's Introduction 


avid reader throughout his life. A story is related that even when he 
was dying and a friend came in to see him, Al-Biruni enquired about 
the solution of some mathematical problem regarding which that 
friend had spoken to him earlier. The friend was shocked that he was 
worrying about such things in that condition. Al-Biruni replied with 
a great effort, and wanted to know if it was not desirable that he 
should die with the knowledge of the solution of that problem rather 
than without it. The friend gave him the desired information, and as 
he walked out of the room, he heard people crying on the death of 

Al-Biruni was a great linguist and a prolific writer. Besides his 
mother tongue, Khwarizmi—‘an Iranian dialect of the North with 
strong Turkish influence’—he knew Hebrew, Syriac and Sanskrit. Of 
Greek he had no direct knowledge but was well-acquainted with the 
works of Plato and other Greek masters through Syriac and Arabic 
translations. Of Arabic and Persian, of course, he had a deep 
knowledge, and wrote most of his works, including the Kitabu’l Hind 
in the former language, because it was the international language of 
the times, the repository of the scientific works of the whole civilised 
world, and the medium of valuable contributions to different 
branches of science and literature. 

The early years of Al-Biruni’s life coincided with a period of 
rather quick, violent, political changes in Central Asia, and some of 
these had their impact upon his life and work. He first lived under the 
patronage of the local ruling dynasty of Khwarizm, the Maimunids, 
who threw off the yoke of the Samanids around 995. This seems to 
have adversely affected Al-Biruni’s fortunes; he moved out of 
Khwarizm and lived for sometime in Juijan (the area to the south¬ 
east of the Caspian Sea)fin the court of Shamsul Ma’ali Qabus bin 
Washmgir, to whom he dedicated one of his earliest and'most 
valuable works,/l//zan/7 Bdqiya'an al-Qimm al-khaliyah . 1 He seems to 
have returned to Khwarizm and lived there for some time, when, in 
1017, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni (999-1030) invaded and annexed 
that kingdom. Among the important personages of the Khwarizm 
court who were taken to the victor’s capital city, Ghazni, was 
Al-Biruni. Since then he lived and worked there most of the time, 
until his death at the age of 75 in A H. 440 (1048-1049). 2 

1 Edited and translated into English by Edward C. Sachau under the title of lb 

Chronology of Ancient Nations ,London, 1879. 

2 1 c I. p. XVI. 

xviii India by Al-Biruni 

Al-Biruni’s' position in the court of Sultan Mahmud is not quite 
clear. He was some sort of a hostage, but an honoured one because 
of his scholarly attainments, particularly his high reputation as an 
astronomer and astrologer. However, his relations with Sultan 
Mahmud do not seem to have been very close or cordial. His famous 
work on India was prepared during the reign of Sultan Mahmud 
(around 1030) but he refers to the Sultan only on a few occasions 
and that too very tersely. 

It is to this period of his stay in Ghazni that the beginnings of his 
interest in India and the Indians can be traced. As we know, many 
important Indian works on astronomy, mathematics and medicine 
had been translated into Arabic long ago, during the early Abbassid 
period. Some of these must have been available to Al-Biruni. This is 
evident from the Kit abut Hind itself in which Al-Biruni refers to the 
Sanskrit manuscripts consulted by him, the copyists’ errors in some 
of these, etc. During his stay at Ghazni, Al-Biruni must have had 
greater opportunities of pursuing his studies on India. The city was 
the chief political and cultural centre of Islam in the eastern region, 
and it must have attracted accomplished persons from the 
neighbouring countries including India. It also contained a number 
of Indian prisoners of war, skilled artisans and learned men who 
were brought over in the wake of Sultan Mahmud’s invasions on 
India. Moreover, the Punjab with its large majority of the Hindus 
had become a part of the Ghaznavid empire. At Ghazni, as also 
some of the Indian towns visited by him, 1 2 Al-Biruni must have come 
into contact with many a learned Indian scholar and pandit. 
S.K. Chatteiji suggests 3 that Al-Biruni established some sort of an 
academic rapport with them through the West Punjabi dialect which 
he must have picked up, or through Persian which some of the 
Indians might have learnt. 

Al-Biruni refers (p. 194 ) 4 to a letter which Anandapala of the 

1 In great contrast to this is his attitude towards Mahmud’s son, Sultan Mas‘ud 
(1030-1040) to whom he dedicated his greatest work Al-Qanun Al-Mas'udi fi’l Hai’ah 
wa’l Nujurn, and paid fulsome tributes. The concluding part of Al-Biruni’s life, spent in 
Mas'ud's court, was one of comparative material prosperity and affluence. 

2 In a rather inadequately noticed passage Al-Biruni mentions some of the towns in 
India which he actually visited (p. 143). 

3 Article cited above. 

4 This and the subsequent references to page numbers within brackets in the Introduc¬ 
tion indicate the pages of the present abridged edition. 

Editor's Introduction 


Hindu Shahiya dynasty wrote to Sultan Mahmud offering military 
help to him for suppressing a Turkish rebellion in Khurasan. 
Anandapala wrote that since he himself had been ‘conquered' by 
Sultan Mahmud he did not want that the Sultan should be 
‘conquered' by someone else. 1 Such diplomatic exchanges pre¬ 
suppose the presence of persons who knew the official languages 
used in the courts of Sultan Mahmud and some of the Indian rulers. 2 
Connected with this is the question of Al-Biruni's readers not only 
for the KitSbu'l Hind but some of his other books too. That there was 
a continuing interest in Indian scientific treatises and other works in 
some Muslim circles is evident from the writing of the Kitabu'l Hind 
itself. Al-Biruni’s significant concluding remark that what he had 
related in that book was ‘sufficient for anyone who wants to . . . 
discuss with them (the Hindus) questions of religion, science or 
literature on the very basis of their own civilisation’ shows that there 
were such persons. But not so well appreciated is the fact that there 
were also some Indian Hindu readers Al-Biruni had in his mind. He 
specifically mentions about his ‘being occupied in composing for the 
Hindus a translation of the books of Euclid and of the Almagest, 
and dictating to them a treatise on the construction of the astrolabe’ 
(p. 65). At another place he refers to a book, the Arabic Khanda- 
khadyaka, which he had composed for a Kashmiri Indian named 
Sayavabala (p. 268). 

It has been suggested that a feeling of shared adversity brought Al- 
Biruni and the Hindus close to each other. 3 Of this we do not have 
any direct evidence but; as we know, Al-Biruni was deeply 
interested in astronomy and mathematics since an earlier period of 
his life, and he must have taken full advantage of the opportunities of 
direct contact with Indian scholars during his stay at Ghazni. A 
considerable body of Indian scientific literature was available in 
Arabic translations and Al-Biruni would have been familiar with 
some of it. While living at Ghazni he got additional opportunities of 
securing first-hand information by personal contact with Indians and 
by direct study of Sanskrit sources. As we know, he paid visits to and 
lived in different parts of the Punjab, and the possibility of travels 
to other parts of India cannot be ruled out. Al-Biruni’s serious 

1 This is an interesting commentary on contemporary ideas of political behaviour and 

2 See Note 46. 

3 Sachau, Alberuni’s India, Preface, p. XVII. 


India by Al-Biruni 

interest in Indian sciences, religion and philosophy began under 
these circumstances, and the collection of materials for the Kitabu’l 
Hind , as also perhaps its preliminary draft, was completed during 
this period. 

Various estimates have been made about the number of books 
written by Al-Biruni. Yaqut (1179-1229) claims to have seen in 
Merv a list of books written by Al-Biruni which was spread over 
sixty closely transcribed pages, while another writer mentions that 
the weight of the books written by Al-Biruni was more than a 
camel’s load! More specific but still astounding is the information 
given by Al-Biruni himself who mentions the names of 114 of his 
books in a letter which he wrote to a friend some 13 years before his 
death. 1 This too is not a complete list. Apart from the likelihood of 
Al-Biruni having written some more books during the remaining 
years of his life, there are references to some other titles not 
mentioned in his list. Regrettably, the bulk of his works has either 
been lost or is lying unpublished. Only two, 2 the Atharu’lBaqiya and 
the Kitabu’l Hind are available in printed edition,and English transla¬ 
tion, due largely to the scholarly devotion of the great German 
scholar, Edward Carl Sachau (1845-1930). 

Sachau was bom at Neumunster on 20 July 1845, and served as 
Professor of Semitic Languages in the University of Vienna (1869) and 
later as Professor of Oriental Languages in the Royal University of 
Berlin. He remained engaged with the study of the Kitdbu'l Hind for 
long, and some particulars of the editing of its text and translation 
into English, as also the latter’s subsequent editions and translation 
into languages other than English, may be noted. A copy of the 
Arabic manuscript was prepared and collated in 1872-73, and 
Sachau first translated it into German. Later, as the Arabic text 3 was 
being printed in 1885, Sachau 'translated the whole book a second 
time "Into English, finishing the translation of every sheet as the 
original was carried through in the press/ 4 The English translation 

1 Abdus Salam Nadvi's article cited above. 

2 Muhammad Abdur Rahman Khan's .guticlejOn the Minor .Tracts of Abu Raihan 
Muhammad bin Ahmad Al-Biruni', A C V, pp. 171-175, refers to the publication of the 
text and translation of another wofk of Al-Biruni, Kitabu’t infhirn li Awa'tl Sana’atu t 
Ianjim . by R. Ramsay Wright, Lpndon, 1934.. 

3 Another edition, of the Arabic text based upon a rm. copy in the Bibliotheque 
Nationale, Paris, has been brought out by Dairatu'l Ma'arif, Hyderabad, 1958. 

4 Edward C. Sachau, Eng. tr., AIberum's India, New Delhi, 1964, Preface, p.XLVIII 

Editor's Introduction 


with exhaustive notes was first published in two volumes in London 
in 1888.' Later, a one-volume edition was published from the same 
place in 1910. The former was re-printed in Pakistan in 1962, and 
the latter in India (S. Chand, New Delhi) in 1964. 

The book was translated into Hindi by Shantaram and published 
by the Indian Press Limited, Allahabad, in 1926-28; it was again 
translated into Hindi by Rajnikanta Sharma and published from the 
same place in 1967. An Urdu translation in two volumes done by 
Syed Asghar Ali was brought out by the Anjurnan Tamqqi-i Urdu 
in i94i_42. A Russian translation by A.B. Khalidov and Y.N. 
Zavadovskii was published under the editorship of A.I. Belyaev in 
Tashkent (U.S.S.R.) in 1963. More recently, the Arabic text has 
been translated into Bengali by A.B.M. Habibullah and published 
by the Bangla Academy, Dacca, Bangladesh, in 1974. An abridged 
edition-of Sachau’s English translation based on a method different 
from the one adopted here was prepared by Ainslie T. Embree and 
published in New York, 1971. In the present abridged edition an 
attempt has been made to draw the general readers’ attention to the 
approach and methodology of Al-Biruni, the core of his direct 
observations on the Indian society and sciences, and to some of the 
significant specific portions which have not received adequate 

Al-Biruni’s long account is divided into eighty chapters, each with 
a sub-heading indicating the topic or topics to which it relates. The 
first chapter is an introductory one in which Al-Biruni discusses the 
difficulties (difference of language, religious and racial prejudices, 
etc.) one had to face in preparing a dispassionate account of the 
Indian society, and explains the methodology adopted by him. This 
is followed by chapters on Religion and Philosophy (II-VIII), Social 
Organisation, Civil and Religious Laws, Iconography (IX-XI), 
Religious and Scientific Literature (XII-XIV, XVI), Metrology, 
Weights and Measures, Alchemy (XV, XVII), Geography, Cosmo- 

1 The publication of both the text and translation received the patronage of the India 
Office, London. 

2 This is a photographic reproduction of the 2-volume edition, London, 1888. This 
process was perhaps responsible for the practical difficulties in deleting unrequired 
materials from within a chapter, page or paragraph. Several chapters not considered 
relevant have therefore been deleted, though brief indication of the topics concerned 
have been given at the end of the preceding ones. The Introduction presents a critical 
survey of the contents of the work and stresses its significance. 


India by Al-Biruni 

graphy, Astronomy, Chronology and related subjects (XVIII- 
LXII), Social Life, Manners and Customs, Festivals, etc. (LXIII- 
LXXIX), and Astrology (LXXX). 

There is some degree of overlapping, but these apparent 
repetitions are not due to any lack of attention, because Al-Biruni 
himself explains that one could not always adhere to the 
‘geometrical method’, only referring to that which precedes and 
never to that which follows. One had often to introduce in a chapter 
an unknown factor, the explanation of which could only be given in a 
later part of the book (p. 12). Al-Biruni also often repeats certain 
information because he considered such repetition to be useful. It 
facilitated the learning of a subject (which in this case was a 
completely new one), because learning was the ‘fruit of repetition’. 

The chapters generally begin with a brief, neat,introduction to the 
topic concerned, then comes the descriptive portion, followed by 
relevant extracts from the original sources. Care is taken to indicate 
the differences if any in the original sources, the textual errors due to 
copyists’ mistakes, the correct transliteration and explanation of 
key-words (p. 12) and the incompleteness of information on any 
particular subject. On a few occasions Al-Biruni refers to some 
individual Indians or a group of them from whom he obtained some 
information, (pp.76, 77 and 222). But he did not accept such testi¬ 
monies uncritically. He tried to verify such information by asking the 
same question from different reporters and in different order. He 
refers to one such case and expresses surprise at the ‘different 
answers’ he got from different persons when thus cross-examined. 
He adds sardonically, ‘But lo! what different answers did I get! God 
is all-wise!’ (p. 222). 

Al-Biruni honestly notes about the incompleteness of his 
information on any topic (pp. 60, 70, 74, 117, etc.). However, while 
he draws attention to insufficient information, he does not regard it 
as a justification to omit all discussion on that topic* he prefers to 
record whatever information is available (p. 95). Finally attention is 
drawn to similar ideas and practices among other nations in earlier 
periods. All this indicates a surprisingly modem scientific metho¬ 
dology and a comparative approach. 

1 Chapter XVI relates to the different languages, scripts and numerical signs current 
in the different parts of the country, but its concluding portion gives an account of the 
‘strange manners and customs of the Hindus’ which better fits in with chapters LXIII- 

Editor's Introduction 


Particularly significant is Al-Biruni’s sociological insight, which is 
quite evident in the chapters dealing with the caste system, the civil 
and religious laws, idols and idol-worshipping, etc. For example, in 
explaining the origin of the caste system he points out that if‘a new 
order of things in political or social life’ is introduced by a strong- 
minded individual and supported by religious sanction, it gradually 
turns into the accepted social norm (p. 44). The kings of the ancient 
period, who were conscious of their duties and obligations, took care 
to create and maintain the ‘division of their subjects into different 
classes and orders, enjoining upon each a particular kind of work and 
prohibiting any intermixture between these (pp. 44-45). Any 
attempt howsoever well-intentioned and by howsoever meritorious a 
person to transgress these restrictions was punished (p. 228). He 
also stresses the role of the State in preserving the established social 
order and adds that harmony between ‘these twins. State and 
religion’, has a salutary effect on the society. Again, while discussing 
the nature of Hindu religious law and the question of its abrogation, 
he stresses the very important point about changes in law being 
‘necessitated by the change of the nature of man’ and by the fact of 
the laws becoming too exacting for the people concerned (p. 49). 

Al-Biruni also takes note of ancient Indian traditions in which 
indications of such sociological insight are evident. For example, he 
approvingly quotes a tradition from Saunaka (pp. 233—234), taken 
probably from the Vishnu-Dharma in which ecological differences and 
the multiplicity of social organisations have been considered as essen¬ 
tial for the development of human civilisation. Mutual assistance 
which is the basis of civilisation, presupposes mutual differences ‘in 
consequence of which one requires the help of the other.’ It is noted 
further that customs and usages make people live and act in a 
particular manner, and when to these are added, the weight of 
religious commands the habits grow more binding, because while the 
former are open to criticism and modification, the latter are not. To 
some extent patriotism too is rooted in the attachment of the people 
to the climatic conditions and socio-religious set-up of the areas in 
which they have been living. 

Attention may also be drawn to Al-Biruni’s observations on the 
causes and utility of wars in connection with his account of the great 
Mahabharata wars. He expresses certain ideas which seem 
surprisingly similar to the theory of-natural selection and the survival 


India by Al-Biruni 

of the fittest, and which indicate some awareness of the need to 
preserve what is nowadays called the ecological balance. He writes: 

I he life of the world depends upon sowing and procreating. Both processes 
increase in course of time, and this increase is unlimited, xuhilst the world is 

When a class of plants or animals does not increase any more in its structure 
ami its peculiar kind is established as a species of its own, when each 
individual of it does not simplycome into existence once and perish, but besides 
procreates a being like itself or several together. .. . Then this will as a single 
species ofplants or animals occupy the earth and spread itself and its kind over 
as much territory as it can find. . . . 

The forester leaves those branches which he perceives to be excellent whilst he 
cuts away all others .... 

Nature proceeds in a similar way; however it does not distinguish, for its 
action is under all circumstances one and the same. . . . If thus the earth is 
ruined, or is near to be ruined, by having too many inhabitants, its ruler. . . . 
sends it a messenger for the purpose of reducing too great the numbers and of 
cutting away all that is evil (p. 184). 

Turning to the specific topics covered by Al-Biruni, one is amazed 
by the range of his interest. Though concerned mainly with the 
religious and intellectual aspects, he writes about many other things 
too—the social and religious conditions, food and dress, games and 
pastimes, weights and measures, law-suits and superstitions, etc. At 
the same time one cannot help noticing the silence on some other 
important aspects. About the political aspect, it is understandable for 
they are too obviously outside the scope of his work, and had, 
moreover, been attended to in other extant works. More difficult to 
understand is the silence about such other topics as trade, industry, 
agriculture, arts and architecture, 1 etc. 

On social conditions, the chapters on the caste system and the 
rites and customs which the Brahmans and members of the other 
castes had to follow (pp. 45-47, 223-229), constitute the most 
valuable part of the book. No such detailed and perceptive account 
of the caste system as it prevailed in early medieval India is 
available in any other non-Indian source. This portion seems to be 

1 There is a brief admiring reference to the construction of ponds with stepped 
embankments (p. 232). On another occasion when Al-Biruni is mentioning the name 
of an Indian book on architecture (p. 73 j there is a lacuna in the original Arabic text. 
This is rather unfortunate; the missing portion would have provided us with 
information on a neglected topic. 

Editor’s Introduction 


based partly on the position stated in the standard religious texts but 
it throws some new light too. Thus for example, one notices some 
sort of a pairing of the Brahmans and the Kshatriyas on the one hand 
and the Vaisyas and the Sudras on the other in regard to some of the 
things they could or could not do (pp. 47, 229, 240-241). 

The reference to members of the different varnas living ‘together 
in the same towns and villages, mixed together in the same houses 
and lodgings’ (p. 46) indicates some degree of inter-caste marriages, 
at least among the Vaisyas and the Sudras. That inter-marriage was 
common among the Antyaja, ‘who are not reckoned among any 
caste, but only as members of a certain craft or profession is 
specifically stated by Al-Biruni (ibid). 

It also appears that the caste gradation, apart from its validity in 
social and religious matters, had some bearing on other matters too, 
as for example polygamy 1 2 and the period of confinement after child¬ 
birth. Al-Biruni writes that some Hindus were of the view that the 
number of wives depends upon the caste; that accordingly, a 
Brahman could take four wives, a Kshatriya three, a Vaisya two and 
a Sudra one (p. 240). On the other point, he writes that the period of 
confinement was 8 days for the Brahman, 12 for the Kshatriya. 15 
for Vaisya and 30 for Sudra women (p. 241). It may be remarked 
here that among the poor people, for whom every working hand was 
important, the longer period of confinement would have caused 
some economic difficulty. 

On education, regional languages and scripts, too, there are 
valuable bits of information. We are told about the use of slate 
(black tablet) and chalk (white material) for writing by the children 
in the school (p ; 86). We also get a description of the manner in 
which writing materials were prepared from the barks and leaves of 
different kinds of trees and the methods by which palm-leaf 
manuscripts were bound and preserved (p. 80). Pieces of silken 
cloth were also used for writing, though in very special cases 
(p. 193). 

The writing or the alphabet ‘of the Hindus' consisted of*50 letters 

1 He mentions (p. 86) another very interesting practice prevailing in the eastern parts 
of the country of loving the younger child more because the eldest one owed his birth 
to ‘predominant lust’ while the younger one was due to ‘mature reflection and calm 

2 In many a private collection of books and manuscripts the palm-leaf manuscripts are 
still preserved exactly in the same manner. 

xxvi India by Al-Biruni 


which had developed by a gradual process. The large number of 
letters was due, among other things, to the fact that their language 
had many sounds which were not to be found in other languages. 
There follows a very graphic description of the writing of ‘the 
Hindus’— The Hindus write from the left to the right like the 
Greeks. They do not write on the basis of a line, above which the 
heads of the letters rise whilst their tails go down below, as in Arabic 
writing. On the contrary, their ground-line is above, a straight line 
above every single character, and from this line the letter hangs 
down and is written under it. Any sign above it is nothing but a gram¬ 
matical mark to denote the pronunciation of the character above 
which it stands’ (pp. 81). 

Al-Biruni goes on to enumerate some of the other regional 
languages and scripts and the areas in which they were used. He 
mentions one, called ‘Bhaikshuki’ (p. 81) which was used in 
Udunpur in Purvadesa, 1 and which was ‘the writing of Buddha’ 
[Buddhists?]. It may be noted here that unlike the other languages 
listed areawise, Bhaikshuki was not the exclusive language of a 
particular area but that of a religious group living in that area. 

The account of the principal festivals (pp. 258-62) provides an 
interesting reading. Even at this distance of time a present-day reader 
can identify some of the festivals, such as the Holi Durga Puja and the 
Dipavali He can also notice the continuity, as well as change, in 
regard to some rites and ceremonies observed on these occasions. 
The information available in the ancient and early medieval Indian 
digests on these points is of course there but Al-Biruni’s account 
constitutes a different, supplementary, category of source-material, 
and sheds light from a different angle. 

Al-Biruni believed that knowledge was truly international, that 
ideas and major discoveries by whomsoever and wherever made 
benefited all nations (p. 69). That he believed in the usefulness of 
spreading knowledge beyond one’s own frontiers is evident from 
what he writes about his being ‘occupied in composing for the 
Hindus a translation of the books of Euclid and of the Almagest, and 
dictating to them a treatise on the construction of the astrolabe’ 
(p. 65). He also believed that the kings and princes could play an 
important part in promoting scientific studies because they alone 

Sachau rightly suggests that Udunpur might be identified with the famous Buddhist 
monastery of Udandapuri. It is situated in the present Nalanda district of Bihar. See 
also note 30A 

Editor's Introduction 


could free the scholars from material worries and enable them to 
pursue their studies with 'contentment and devotion (p. 69). 
However, ‘the present times’, Al-Biruni ruefully adds, were not 
opportune. Neither was royal and princely patronage available, nor 
the ‘public mind’ directed towards the sciences. It was, therefore, 
impossible that ‘a new science or a new kind of research' should 
arise. What existed was nothing but the ‘scanty remains of bygone 
better times.’ This remark of Al-Biruni about the arrested growth of 
Indian scientific studies finds support by the fact that some of the 
standard works available to, and used by him, were those which 
had been written centuries ago. Al-Biruni further remarks that not all 
the rulers and rich men were conscious of ‘the nobility of science.’ 
That explained as to why they did not call at the doors of the 
scholars whereas the scholars always flocked to the doors of the rich 
(p. 90). At the same time Al-Bifuni thought that the kings and 
princes played an mportant role in promoting arts and sciences for 
they alone could free the scholars from material worries and enable 
them to continue their studies (p. 69). 

Among the ‘Hindu’ sciences Al-Biruni devotes special attention to 
that of astronomy partly because it was ‘the most famous among 
them’ and partly because of his own interest in the subject. While 
admiring their proficiency in this branch of knowledge he stresses the 
sharp distinction between ‘the two theories, the vulgar and the 
scientific’. The two had got inter-mingled with the passage of time, 
and that was why in their mathematical and astronomical literature 
one found ‘scientific theorems’ mixed up with ‘silly notions of the 

crowd’ (p. 11); it was a mixed bag of‘pearl shells and sour dates- 

of costly crystals and common pebbles’ (p. 12). That was because 
they did not apply ‘strictly scientific deduction' (p. 12 ). At another 
place, Al-Biruni mentions some of the factors responsible for such 
an attitude. Among these were a lack of courage to hold firmly to 
one’s convictions, as Socrates had done (pp. 11,218), pull of social 
ties and fear of social odium (pp. 217—18). 

Al-Biruni also writes about some other ‘Hindu’ sciences, such as 
alchemy, metrology and medicine. Under the first-named, he refers 
to the use of the processes of sublimation, calcination and waxing of 
talc. He, however, comments sarcastically on the pseudo-science of 
rasayam whose adepts sought to make gold out of baser metals, and 
condemns ‘the greediness of the ignorant Hindu princes for gold¬ 
making.' They would resort to even inhuman practices such as 

xxviii India by Al-Biruni 

killing of children by throwing them into fire if some misguided prac¬ 
titioner of msayana were to tell them about some such wild ‘scheme 
of gold-making.’ Finally, Al-Biruni observes that ‘the Hindus’ 
cultivated numerous other branches of science and literature, and 
adds with characteristic modesty of a true scholar that he could not 
‘comprehend’ them all with his limited knowledge. 

In religion, too, a distinction had to be made between the beliefs of 
the educated class of the Hindus and those of the common masses. 

The former’s conception of God was strictly monotheistic—‘God- 

is one, eternal, without beginning and end, acting by freewill, 
almighty. ... living, giving life, ruling, preserving’. On the other 
hand, there was the widely prevalent practice of idol-worshipping 
among the masses. But Al-Biruni does not just denounce it, but tries 
to understand it and to explain it to his readers. He points out that 
the popular mind had an aversion to abstract thought and leaned 
towards the sensible world. This led to the setting up of monuments 
and making of idols to preserve the memory of, and show veneration 
to, prophets and sages. With the passage of time the circumstances 
of the origin were forgotten but the practice remained, and a feeling 
of veneration for the idols became ingrained among the people (p. 
52). it is evident that Al-Biruni in spite of his personal feeling of 
abhorrence is trying to give his readers an objective account of the 
practice of idol-worshipping among the Hindus. 

Matters of economic interest are comparatively less attended to 
but Al-Biruni's insight into such diverse things as the economic 
reasons for the importance of Somanath (p. 214), the prohibition of 
cow-slaughter (p. 238), the prevalence of prostitution (p.;242), etc. 
is remarkable. He explains that Somanath had become so famous 
because it was a harbour for sea-faring people and a station for the 
traders operating between the East African coast and China. As for 
cow-slaughter, it was prohibited because of the manifold utility of 
the cow for agricultural and domestic purposes. Regarding the 
prostitutes, he observes that kings used them as ‘an attraction for 
their cities, a bait of pleasure for their subjects, for no other but 
financial reasons.’ The revenue earned from them as fines and taxes 
was spent on the army. 

There is an incidental but important reference which shows that 
political expediency rather than religious sentiments often guided the 
actions of some of the early Muslim rulers. Mentioning the conquest 
of Multan by Muhammad bin Qasim, Al-Biruni writes that the 

Editor’s Introduction xxix 

conqueror let the idol remain where it was (though after desecrating 
it) when he learnt that the temple and the idol were the cause of the 
accumulation of treasures in the town and of its flourishing condi¬ 
tion (p. 53). More telling is the account of the sending of‘golden 
idols adorned with crowns and diamonds , captured in Sicily during 
the Caliphate of Mu’awiya (651-680), to Sindh for selling them to 
the princes of that country. The caliph did not feel any scruple about 
making money out of the sale of ‘objects of abominable idolatry’ 
because he was looking at the matter from ‘a political, not from a 
religious point of view’ (p. 56). 

The references to principles of taxation and the ideas regarding 
the division of income (p. 235) also deserve notice. The emphasis on 
maintaining sizeable reserves for emergencies, ‘to guarantee the 
heart against anxiety’, as Al-Biruni puts it, explains the habit of 
hoarding and non-investment in trade and manufacture. Also to be 
noted is the reference to religious restrictions on occupational 
mobility and to the desirability of Brahmans not taking to trade 
‘except in case of dire necessity’ and then also in the trade of clothes 
and betel-nuts only (p. 225). Trade was undesirable for the 
Brahmans because it involved ‘deceiving and lying’. ‘Usury or taking 
of percentages’ was also forbidden, except in the case of the Sudras 
who could charge interest upto 2 per cent (p. 236). That Al-Biruni 
had an eye for significant bits of information from amongst legal and 
other details is evident from his reference to the hermaphrodite being 
reckoned as a male being for purposes of inheritance. 

While giving an account of the physical geography of the country 
Al-Biruni seems to have an eye for everything, ranging from the 
shape, size and make of rocks and stones (p. 94) to the anthro¬ 
pological features and costumes of the people (p. 96). In the 
geographical portion of his account, he depends not so much upon 
extracts from books, as on scientific observation and calculations. 
The description of the main routes' to the different parts of the 
country and the calculation of distances between the important 
towns (p. 95ff) constitute a very important portion of Al-Biruni’s 
account, but its proper utilisation requires the arduous work of 
identifying all the place-names and working out the exact Indian 
equivalents of the units of measurements used by Al-Biruni. 

1 Al-Biruni mentions sixteen important routes originating from Kanauj, Mathura, 
Anhilwara and Dhar. He probably obtained this information from the military and 
civil officers of Sultan Mahmud who were more familiar with that part of the country. 


India by Al-Biruni 

Sometimes, very valuable pieces of information are given by Al- 
Bjruni while discussing a rather unconnected topic. Thus, while 
describing the 'alphabets of the Hindus’ used in the different parts of 
the country, and referring to the ‘ Karnata ’ used in Kamatadesa, he 
mentions that the group of soldiers in Sultan Mahmud’s army called 
the Kannara were recruited from Kamatadesa (p. 81). Again, while 
writing about the constellation of the Great Bear he states that ‘our 
time’ (Le., the time of the writing of Kitabu'l Hind, or A.H. 421) cor¬ 
responded to 952nd year of the Sakakala (p. 180). This provides 
indirect corroborative evidence on the concordance of the Saka era 
with the Christian era, and supports the view that it commenced in 
A.D. 78. As we know, A.H. 421 corresponds to A.D. 1030, and 952 
added to 78 yields 1030. At another place, while discussing the 
methods of determining longitudes, he lists some of the towns in 
India which he had visited and of which he had determined the 
longitudes himself (p. 143). This information, which has not 
received adequate attention, has a bearing on the question of Al- 
Biruni’s travels inside India, on which opinions differ. For example, 
while writing about the divisions of time, he mentions the clepsydrae, 
a mechanism for determining the passing of a unit of time called 
ghati which he had seen at Peshawar, and to the endowments made 
by pious people for administering these clepsydrae (p. 156). 1 

The most remarkable feature of Al-Biruni’s account is the con¬ 
scientious and sympathetic approach to the subject of his study. To 
realise the significance of this approach one has to bear in mind that 
the book was written at a time of recurring military clashes and 
increasing ideological and emotional hostility between the Hindus 
and the Muslims. At times he uses rather harsh expressions about 
some of the Indian customs and practices, and he is particularly 
critical of what he considered as some sort of a superiority-complex, 
and an attitude of insularity, among the Hindus (pp 10-11, 85) 
but he takes care to add that such things were not peculiar to the 
Hindus alone but were common among other peoples too, including 
the pre-Islamic Arabs. He further explains that they appeared so 
strange to an outsider like him because there were no such parallels 
in his own society (pp. 85, 88). 

1 We know of similar arrangements made in the time of Fimz Tughlaq( 1351-88), 
and Babur (1526-30) too makes an admiring reference to a similar arrangement he 
. had seen in India. The testimony to the continuity of the practice shows that it had 
been working since long. __- 

Editor's Introduction 


Also, very significant is Al-Biruni’s concluding remark that his 
book was meant for those who wanted to discuss'with the Hindus 
‘the questions of religion, science or literature on the very basis of their 
own civilisation (p. 272, emphasis added). Much stress is nowadays 
being laid by Western scholars to try to understand Oriental cultures 
on their own terms and on the basis of the indigenous sources. It is a 
measure of Al-Biruni’s greatness that he made such an attempt, 
faijHy successfully, about one thousand years ago. In fact, it is this 
discerning and basically appreciative approach to the understanding 
of an alien culture on its own terms which lifts Al-Biruni's account 
much ^bove anything else, written on India in the medieval period. 

In this abridged edition of Sachau’s .English translation all the 
chapters have been retained in their original order, as also all the 
direct observations of Al-Biruni’s on different topics. A considerable 
portion of the book relates to astronomy, astrology, chronology and 
related subjects, and to Al-Biruni himself this perhaps was the more 
important part of his account. However, much of this is not of any 
particular interest to the common reader, and has been rendered 
obsolete by recent scientific progress. On the other hand, greater 
interest is now attached to the portion relating to social organisation, 
manners and customs, fairs and festivals, the legal system and topo¬ 
graphical details, etc. The editing of the text has been done accord¬ 
ingly. The deleted portions are mainly those which contain technical 
details of astronomy and astrology, legends and stories, and 
reproduce long extracts from original sources (except where they 
relate to some 'significant subject). Such portions are of interest only 
to the specialists. The contents of the deleted portions have been 
briefly indicated within square brackets, and the numbers of the 
pages (New Delhi 1964 reprint) thus summarised given in square 
brackets. 1 At a few places there are cross-references, where Al- 
Biruni refers to some matter on a preceding page. In such cases the 
corresponding page number given in small brackets is of the present 
abridged edition. Smaller deletions covering matter within a page or 
two have been indicated by three dot marks. 

Explanatory notes 2 have been added on some of the books and 
authors cited by Al-Biruni and on technical terms occurring in the 

1 With Chapter XLIX, Volume II commences, and the pagination begins with l. 

2 Footnote numbers are not printed in the body of the text in Sachau's English transla¬ 
tion; they are arranged page-wise at the end of the book. I have, however, given the 
footnote numbers in serial order in the text and arranged the notes at the end of the 


India by Al-Biruni 

texh Some of these are based on Sachau’s own annotations spread 
over 150 pages of the book. It was not considered necessary to retain 
or to summarise these because many of the notes are of a specialised, 
philological interest. Also, some of these needed updating in the 
light of recent researches. For the convenience of those interested in 
following up any particular part of Al-Biruni’s observations, a 
selected list of relevant articles has been given. The index gives 
special attention to the portions regarding social organisation, 
religion and sciences, etc. A map showing the extent of the empire of 
Sultan Mahmud, including the Indian portion of it, has also been 
added. An attempt has thus been made to present the kernel of Al- 
Biruni’s account in such a manner as to render it meaningful and 
enjoyable for a common man to read this great work. 

Sultan Mahmud and Al-Biruni symbolise two different aspects of 
the contact between the Indian and the Islamic civilisations. While 
the former stands for the immediate, external and destructive results, 
the latter represents the long-term, internal and constructive impact. 
Unfortunately, the common reader, not excluding those interested in 
history, know more about the invasions of Sultan Mahmud on India 
than about-the scholarly study of the Indian society by Al-Biruni. If 
this book could be of some help in correcting the tilt and restoring the 
balance it would have amply served its purpose. I feel happy and 
encouraged by the fact that this revised second edition of the book is 
coming out within only two years of the first one. Some additions 
have been made in the extracts from the text, and the Editor’s Intro¬ 
duction, Select References and Notes have also been revised. 

I am indebted to my friend Paul Jackson, S.J., who has 
transliterated into Roman script the Greek words occurring in the 
English translation. I am thankful to Professor Yogendra Mishra, 
former Head, Department of History, Patna University, for some 
useful information on the Hindu calendar which helped me prepare 
the Notes on the Festivals (pp. 288-90), I am also thankful to my 
colleague Dr R.N. Nandi, Reader, Department of History, Patna 
College, for the help he gave to me in preparing some of the notes, 
and the time he spared in discussing several other matters requiring 
elucidation. My son, Imtiaz Ahmad, Lecturer, Department of 
History, Patna College, helped me by preparing the Index and 
seeing the book through the press. 

Q. Ahmad 


Greek words transliterated in the Roman Script as they occur in the 
text are given below along with the page numbers of this abridged 
edition : the words are separated from each other by (-) if more than 
one occur in a page. 

Page Greek Words 

16 to lanthanein - he dunamis - sophia 

17 philasophos - philosophoi 

17 mousai 

19 en praxei - en dunamei - hule - dunamis - praxis 

19 hule 

21 hule 

23 en praxei - en dunamei 

24 dunamis - praxis 

32 ta onta 

42 hule - hule - en dunamei - hule - hule-hule - hule 

76 charistiones 

80 ie. tomaria 

92 he oikoumene - okeanos 

107 aither 

109 klimatia 

134 oikoumene 

135 oikoumene - oikoumene - oikoumene 

137 geographia 

138 oikoumene 

142 oikoumene - oikoumene 

144 hule - hule - hule 

145 phusike - akroasis 


India by Al-Biruni 

153 hule - hule - hule 

270 tropikon - stereon - disoma 

kenlron - epanaphora - apoklima 
ta meteora 


India in a.d. 1030 

Composed by 

Abu Raihan Muhammad ibn Ahmad 



In the name of God, the Compassionate, 
the Merciful 

1. On tradition, hearsay and 

2. The different kinds of 

3. Praise of truthfulness 

No one will deny that in questions of historic authenticity hearsay 
does not equal eye-witness; for in the latter the eye of the observer 

apprehends the substance of that which 
is observed, both in the time when and 
in the place where it exists, whilst hearsay 
has its peculiar drawbacks. But for these, 
it would even be preferable to eye-witness: 
for the object of eye-witness can only be actual momentary existence, 
whilst hearsay comprehends alike the present, the past, and the future, 
so as to apply in a certain sense both to that which is and to that which 
is not (i.e., which either has ceased to exist or has not yet come into 
existence). Written tradition is one of the species of hearsay—we 
might almost say, the most preferable. How could we know the 
history of nations but for the everlasting monuments of the pen? 

The tradition regarding an event which in itself does not contradict 
either logical or physical laws will invariably depend for its character 
as true or false upon the character of the reporters, who are influenced 
by the divergency of interests and all kinds of animosities and 
antipathies between the various nations. We must distinguish 


India by Al-Biruni 

different classes of reporters. 

One of them tells a lie, as intending to further an interest of his 
own, either by lauding his family or nation, because he is one of them, 
or by attacking the family or nation, on the opposite side, thinking that 
thereby he can gain his ends. In both cases he acts from motives of 
objectionable cupidity and animosity. 

Another one tells a lie regarding a class of people whom he likes, 
as being under obligations to them, or whom he hates because 
something disagreeable has happened between them. Such a 
reporter is near akin to the first-mentioned one, as he too acts from 
motives of personal predilection and enmity. 

Another tells a lie because he is of such a base nature as to aim 
thereby at some profit, or because he is such a coward as to be afraid 
of telling the truth. 

Another tells a lie because it is his nature to lie, and he cannot do 
otherwise, which proceeds from the essential meanness of his 
character and the depravity of his innermost being. 

Lastly, a man may tell a lie from ignorance, blindly following 
others who told him. If, now, reporters of this kind become so 
numerous as to represent a certain body of tradition, or if in the 
course of time they even come to form a consecutive series of com¬ 
munities or nations, both the first reporter and his followers form the 
connecting links between the hearer and the inventor of the lie; and if 
the connecting links are eliminated, there remains the originator of 
the story, one of the various kinds of liars we have enumerated, as 
the only person with whom we have to deal. 

That man only is praiseworthy who shrinks from a lie and always 
adheres to the truth, enjoying credit even among liars, not to mention 

...When I once called upon the master ’Abu-Sahl ‘Abd-Almun‘im 
Ibn ‘ Ali Ibn Nuh At-tiflisi, may God strengthen him! I found that he 

blamed the tendency of the author of a 
book on the Mu‘tazila sect to misrepre¬ 
sent their theory. For, according to 
them, God is omniscient of himself, and 
this dogma that author had expressed in 
such a way as to say that God has no 
knowledge (like the knowledge of man), 
thereby misleading uneducated people 
to imagine that, according to the Mu’tazilites, God is ignorant Praise 

1. On the defects of Muslim 
works on religious and. 
philosophical doctrines 

2. Exemplified with regard 
to the Hindus. Criticism 
of the book of Eranshahri 

3. Beruni asked to write a 
book on the subject 

4. He states his method 



be to God, who is far above all such and similar unworthy 
descriptions! Thereupon I pointed out to the master that precisely 
the same method is much in fashion among those who undertake the 
task of giving an account of religious and philosophical systems from 
which they slightly differ or to which they are entirely opposed... 

In order to illustrate the point of our conversation, one of those 
present referred to the religions and doctrines of the Hindus by way 
of an example. Thereupon I drew their attention to the fact that 
everything which exists on this subject in our literature is second¬ 
hand information which one has copied from the other, a farrago of 
materials never sifted by the sieve of critical examination. Of all 
authors of this class, I know only one who had proposed to himself to 
give a simple and exact report of the subiect sine ira ac studio, viz. 
’Abu-al‘ abbas Aleranshahri. 3 He himself did not believe in any of 
the then existing religions, but was the sole believer in a religion 
invented by himself, which he tried to propagate. He has given a very 
good account of the doctrines of the Jews and Christians as well as of 
the contents of both the Thora and the Gospel. Besides, he furnishes 
us with a most excellent account of the Manichaeans, and of 
obsolete religions of bygone times which are mentioned in their 
books. But when he came in his book to speak of the Hindus and the 
Buddhists, his arrow missed the mark, and in the latter part he went 
astray through hitting upon the book of Zarkan , 4 the contents of 
which he incorporated in his own work. That, however, which he has 
not taken from Zarkan, he himself has heard from common people 
among Hindus and Buddhists. 

At a subsequent period the master ’ Abu-Sahl studied the books in 
question a second time, and when he found the matter exactly as I 
have here described it, he incited me to write down what I know 
about the Hindus as a help to those who want to discuss religious 
questions with them, and as a repertory of information to those who 
want to associate with them. In order to please him I have done so, 
and written this book on the doctrines of the Hindus, never making 
any unfounded imputations against those, our religious antagonists, 
and at the same time not considering it inconsistent with my duties 
as a Muslim to quote their own words at full length when I thought they 
would contribute to elucidate a subject If the contents of these 
quotations happen to be utterly heathenish, and the followers of the truth 
i.e. the Muslims, find them objectionable, we can only say that such 
is the belief of the Hindus, and that they themselves are best 


India by Al-Biruni 

qualified to defend it. 

This book is not a polemical one. I shall not produce the arguments 
of our antagonists in order to refute such of them as I believe to be in 
the wrong. My book is nothing but a simple historic record of facts. I shall 
place before the reader the theories of the Hindus exactly as they 
are, and I shall mention in connection with them similar theories of 
the Greeks in order to show the relationship existing between them. 
For the Greek philosophers, although aiming at truth in the abstract, 
never in all questions of popular bearing rise much above the 
customary exoteric expressions and tenets both of their religion and 
law. Besides Greek ideas we shall only now and then mention those 
of the Sufis or of some one or other Christian sect, because in their 
notions regarding the transmigration of souls and the pantheistic 
doctrine of the unity of God with creation there is much in common 
between these systems. 

I have already translated two books into Arabic, one about the 
origines and a description of all created beings, called Samkhya, 5 and 
another about the emancipation of the soul from the fetters of the 
body, called Patanjali (Patanjalal ). These two books contain most of 
the elements of the belief of the Hindus, but not all the single rules 
derived therefrom. I hope that the present book will enable the 
reader to dispense with these two earlier ones, and with other books 
of the same kind; that it will give a sufficient representation of the 
subject, and will enable him to make himself thoroughly acquainted 
with it — God willing! 

| Al-Biruni’s synopsis of the single chapters of the book, vide pp. 
XXIII-XXXIII above, are then given, pp. 9-16.] 


On The Hindus In General, As An Introduction 
To Our Account Of Them 

Before entering on our exposition, we must form an adequate idea of 
that which renders it so particularly difficult to penetrate to the 

essential nature of any Indian subject. 
The knowledge of these difficulties will 
either facilitate the progress of our 
work, or serve as an apology for any 
shortcomings of ours. For the reader 
must always bear in mind that the 

Description of the barriers 
which separate the Hindus 
from the Muslims and make 
it so particularly difficult 
for a Muslim to study any 
Indian subject 

Hindus entirely differ from us in every respect, many a subject 
appearing intricate and obscure which would be perfectly clear if 
there were more connection between us. The barriers which separate 
Muslims and Hindus rest on different causes. 

And here we first mention the language, although the 
difference of language also exists between other nations. If you want 

to conquer this difficulty (i.e. to learn 
First reason: Difference of Sanskrit), you will not find it easy, 

the language and its 
particular nature 

because the language is of an enormous 
range, both in words and inflections, 

something like the Arabic, calling one and the same thing by various 


India by Al-Biruni 

names, both original and derived, and using one and the same word 
for a variety of subjects, which, in order to be properly understood, 
must be distinguished from each other by various qualifying epithets. 
For nobody could distinguish between the various meanings of a 
word unless he understands the context in which it occurs and its 
relation both to the following and the preceding parts of the sentence. 
The Hindus, like other people, boast of this enormous range of their 
language, whilst in reality it is defect. 

Further, the language is divided into a neglected vernacular one, 
only in use among the common people, and a classical one only in 
use among the upper and educated classes, which is much cultivated, 
and subject to the rules of grammatical inflection and etymology, 
and to all the niceties of grammar and rhetoric. 

Besides, some of the sounds (consonants) of which the language is 
composed are neither identical with the sounds of Arabic and 
Persian, nor resemble them in any way ... It is very difficult, 
therefore, to express an Indian word in our writing, for in order to fix 
the pronunciation we must change our orthographical points and 
signs, and must pronounce the case endings either according to the 
common Arabic rules or according to special rules adapted for the 

Add to this that the Indian scribes are careless, and do not take 
pains to produce correct and well-collated copies. In consequence, 
the highest results of the author’s mental development are lost bv their 
negligence, and his book becomes already in the first or second copy 
so full of faults, that the text appears as something entirely new, 
which neither a scholar nor one familiar with the subject, whether 
Hindu or Muslim, could any longer understand. It will sufficiently 
illustrate the matter if we tell the reader that we have sometimes 
written down a word from the mouth of Hindus, taking the greatest 
pains to fix its pronunciation, and that afterwards when we repeated 
it to them, they had great difficulty in recognising it. 

... Besides, the scientific books of the Hindus are composed in 
various favourite metres, by which they intend, considering that the 
books soon become corrupted by additions and omissions, to 
preserve them exactly as they are, in order to facilitate their being 
learned by heart, because they consider as canonical only that which 
is known by heart, not that which exists in writing. Now it is well 
known that in all metrical compositions there is much misty and 
constrained phraseology merely intended to fill up the metre and 

On the Hindus in General 


serving as a kind of patchwork, and this necessitates a certain 
amount of verbosity. This is also one of the reasons why a word has 
sometimes one meaning and sometimes another. 

From all this it will appear that the metrical form of literary 
composition is one of the causes which make the study of Sanskrit 
literature so particularly difficult. 

Secondly, they totally differ from us in religion, as we believe in 
nothing in which they believe, and vice versa. On the whole, there 

is very little disputing about theological 
topics among themselves; at the utmost, 
they fight with words, but they will 

Second reason: Their 
religious prejudices 

never stake their soul or body or their property on religious 
controversy. On the contrary, all their fanaticism is directed against 
those who do not belong to them—against all foreigners. They call 
them mleccha, i.e. impure, and forbid having any connection with 
them, be it by intermarriage or any other kind of relationship, or by 
sitting, eating, and drinking with them, because thereby, they think, 
they would be polluted. They consider as impure anything which 
touches the fire and the water of a foreigner; and no household can 
exist without these two elements. Besides, they never desire that a 
thing which once has been polluted should be 'purified and thus 
recovered; as, under ordinary circumstances, if anybody or anything 
has become unclean, he or it would strive to regain the state of 
purity. They are not allowed to receive anybody who does noi 
belong to them, even if he wished it, or was inclined to their religion. 
This too, renders any connection with them quite impossible, and 
constitutes the widest gulf between us and them. 

In the third place, in all manners and usages they differ from 
us to such a degree as to frighten their children with us, with 

our dress, and our ways and customs, 
and as to declare us to be devil’s breed, 
and our doings as the very opposite of 
all that is good and proper. By the by. 

Third reason: The radical 
difference of their manners 
and customs 

we must confess, in order to be just, that a similar deprecation of 
foreigners not only prevails among us and the Hindus, but is 
common to all nations towards each other ... 

[Fourthly,] ... the repugnance of the Hindus against foreigners 
increased more and more when the Muslims began to make their 
inroads into their country; for Muhammad Ibn Elkasim Ibn 
Elmunabbih entered Sindh from the side of Sijistan (Sakastene) and 


India by Al-Birum 

conquered the cities of Bahmanwa and Mulasthana, the former of 
which he called Al-mansura, the latter Al-ma’mura. He entered India 
proper, and penetrated even as far as Kanauj, marched through the 
country of Gandhara, and on his way back, thorugh the confines of 
Kashmir, sometimes fighting sword in hand, sometimes gaining his 
ends by treaties, leaving to the people their ancient belief, except in 
the case of those who wanted to become Muslims. All these events 
planted a deeply rooted hatred in their hearts. 

Now in the following times no Muslim conqueror passed beyond 
the frontier of Kabul and the river Sindh until the days of the Turks, 

when they seized the power in Ghazna 
under the Samani dynasty, and the 
supreme power fell to the lot of Nasir- 

Muhammadan conquest of 
the country by Mahmud 

addaula Sabuktagin. This prince chose the holy war as his calling, 
and therefore called himself Al-ghazi (i.e. warring on the road of Allah), 
In the interest of his successors he constructed, in order to weaken 
the Indian frontier, those roads on which afterwards his son 
Yaminaddaula Mahmud marched into India during a period of thirty 
years and more. God be merciful to both father and son! Mahmud 
utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed there 
wonderful exploits, by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust 
scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the 
people. Their scattered remains cherish, of course, the most 
inveterate aversion towards all Muslims. This is the reason, too, why 
Hindu sciences have retired far away from those parts of the country 
conquered by us, and have fled to places which our hand cannot yet 
reach, to Kashmir, Benares, and other places. And there the 
antagonism between them and all foreigners receives more and more 
nourishment both frotn political and religious sources. 

In the fifth place, there are other causes, the mentioning of which 
sounds like a satire-peculiarities of their national character, deeply 

rooted in them, but manifest to every¬ 
body. We can only say, folly is an illness 
•for which there is no medicine, and the 
Hindus believe that there is no country 
but theirs, no nation like theirs, no 

Fifth reason: The self- 
conceit of the Hindus, and 
their deprecation of any¬ 
thing foreign 

kings like theirs, no religion like theirs, no science like theirs. They are 
haughty, foolishly vain, self-conceited, and stolid. They are by 
nature niggardly in communicating that which they know, and they 
take the greatest possible care to withhold it from men of another 

On the Hindtis in General 


caste among their own people, still much more, of course, from any- 
foreigner. According to their belief, there is no other country on 
earth but theirs, no other race of man but theirs, and no created 
beings besides them have any knowledge or science whatsoever. 
Their haughtiness is such that, if you tell them of any science or 
scholar in Khurasan and Persis, they will think you to be both an 
ignoramus and a liar. If they travelled and mixed with other nations, 
they would soon change their mind, for their ancestors were not as 
narrow-minded as the present generation is ... 

Now such is the state of things in India. 1 have found it very hard 
to work my way into the subject, although I have a great liking for it, 
_ , ,.. in which respect I stand quite alone in 

of the author my time, and although I do not spare 

either trouble or money in collecting 
Sanskrit books from places where I supposed they were likely to be 
found, and in procuring for myself, even from very remote places, 
Hindu scholars who understand them and are able to teach me. 
What scholar, however, has the same favourable opportunities of 
studying this subject as I have? That would be only the case with one 
to whom the grace of God accords, what it did not accord to me, a 
perfectly free disposal of his own doings and goings; for it has never 
fallen to my lot in my own doings and goings to be perfectly 
independent, nor to be invested with sufficient power to dispose and 
to order as I thought best. However, I thank God for that which He 
has bestowed upon me, and which must be considered as sufficient 
for the purpose. 

The heathen Greeks, before the rise of Christianity, held much the 
same opinions as the Hindus; their educated classes thought much 
the same as those of the Hindus; their common people held the same 
idolatorous views as those of the Hindus ... The Greeks, however, 
had philosophers who, living in their country, discovered and 
worked out for them the elements of science not of popular 
superstition ... Think of Socrates when he opposed the crowd of his 
nation ... and ... died faithful to the truth. 

The Hindus had no men of this stamp both capable and willing to 
bring sciences to a classical perfection. Therefore, you mostly find 
that even the so-called scientific theorems of the Hindus are in a 
state of utter confusion, devoid of any logical order, and in the last 
instance always mixed up with the silly notions of the crowd ... I 
can only compare their mathematical and astronomical literature, as 


India by Al-Biruni 

far as I know it, to a mixture of pearl shells and sour dates, or of 
pearls and dung or of costiy crystals and common pebbles. Both 
kinds of things are equal in their eyes, since they cannot raise 
themselves to the methods of a strictly scientific deduction. 

In most parts of my work I simply relate without criticising, unless 
there be a special reason for doing so. I mention the necessary 
Sanskrit names and technical terms once where the context of our 
explanation demands it. If the word is an original one, the meaning of 
which can be rendered in Arabic, I only use the corresponding 
Arabic word; if, however, the Sanskrit word be more practical, we 
keep this, trying to transliterate it as accurately as possible. If the 
word is a secondary or derived one, but in general use, we also keep it, 
though there be a corresponding term in Arabic, but before using it 
we explain its signification. In this way we have tried to facilitate the 
understanding of the terminology. 

- Lastly, we observe that we cannot always in our discussions 
strictly adhere to the geometrical method, only referring to that 
which precedes and never to that which follows, as we must 
sometimes introduce in a chapter an unknown factor, the 
explanation of which cah only be given in a later part of the book, 
God helping us ? 


On The Belief Of The Hindus In God 

The nature of God 

The belief of educated and uneducated people differs ip every 
nation; for the former strive to conceive abstract ideas and to define 

general principles, whilst the latter do 
not pass beyond the apprehension of the 
senses, and are content with derived 
rules, without caring for details, especially in questions of religion 
and law, regarding which opinions and interests are divided. The 
Hindus believe with regard to God that he is eternal, without 
beginning and end, acting by free will, almighty, all-wise, living, 
giving life, ruling, preserving; one who in his sovereignty is unique, 
beyond all likeness and unlikeness, and that he does not resemble 
anything nor does anything resemble him. In order to illustrate this 
we shall produce some extracts from their literature, lest the reader 
should think that our account is nothing but hearsay. 

[Extracts from the Patanjali , ‘the book Gita 1 , a part of the book 
Bharata, from the conversation between Vasudeva and Aijuna’, and 
the book Samkhya are quoted. Pp. 27-30. 

This is the procedure followed by Al-Biruni in the subsequent 
chapters too. He first presents a brief summary of the ideas of the 
Indian philosophers and scientists on a particular topic and then 


India by Al-Biruni 

quotes relevant extracts from Indian scientific treatises and/or 
religious books. Sometimes he draws attention to the similar ideas of 
Greek thinkers and the Sufis, and quotes from the concerned 

... The Hindus differ among themselves as to the definition of 
what is action. Some who' make God the source of action, consider 

him as the universal cause; for as the 
On the notion* of the existence of the agents derives from him, 

he is the cause of their action, and in 
consequence it is his own action coming into existence through their 
intermediation. Others do not derive action from God, but from 
other sources, considering them as the particular causes which in the 
last instance—according to external observation—produce the 
action in question. 

... This is what educated people believe about God, They call 
him isvara, i.e. self-sufficing, beneficent, who gives without receiving. 

They consider the unity of God as 
Philosophical and vulgar absolute, but that everything beside 

God God which may appear as a unity is 

really a plurality of things. The existence 
of God they consider as a real existence, because everything that 
exists, exists through him. It is not impossible to think that the 
existing beings are not and that he is, but it is impossible to think that 
he is not and that they are. 

If we now pass from the ideas of the educated people among the 
Hindus to those of the common people, we must first state that they 
present a great variety. Some of them are simply abominable, but 
similar errors also occur in other religions. Nay, even in Islam we 
must decidedly disapprove, e.g. of the anthropomorphic doctrines, 
the teachings of the Jabriyya 8 sect, the prohibition of the discussion 
of religious topics, and such like. Every religious sentence destined 
for the people at large must be carefully worded, as the following 
example shows. Some Hindu scholar calls God a point, meaning to 
say thereby that the qualities of bodies do not apply to him. Now 
some uneducated man reads this and imagines, God is as small as 
a point, and he does not find out what the word point in this sentence 
was really intended* to express. He will not even stop with this 
offensive comparison but will describe God as much larger, and will 
say, “He is twelve fingers long and ten fingers broad.” Praise be to 
God, who is far above measure and number! Further, if an 

Belief of the Hindus in God 


uneducated man hears what we have mentioned, that God com¬ 
prehends the universe so that nothing is concealed from him, he will 
at once imagine that this comprehending is effected by means of 
eyesight; that eyesight is only possible by means of an eye, and that 
two eyes are better than only one; and in consequence he will 
describe God as having a thousand eyes, meaning to describe his 

Similar hideous fictions are sometimes met with among the 
Hindus, especially among those castes who are not allowed to 
occupy themselves with science, of whom we shall speak hereafter. 


On The Hindu Belief As To Created Things, 
Both “Intelligibilia” And “Sensibilia” 

On this subject the ancient Greeks held nearly the same view as the 
Hindus, at all events in those times before philosophy rose high 

among them under the care of the seven 
Notions of the Greeks and so-called pillars of wisdom, viz. Solon of 

‘the ft>s( c«i!° S ° PherS 3510 Athens, Bias of Priene, Periander of 

Corinth, Thales of Miletus, Chilon of 
Lacedaemon, Pittacus of Lesbos, and Cleobulus of Lindos, and their 
successors. Some of them thought that all things are one, and this one 
thing is according to some to lanlhanein, according to others he 
dunatnis; that e g. man has only this prerogative before a stone and the 
inanimate world, that he is by one degree nearer than they to the First 
Cause. But this he would not be anything better than they. 

Others think that only the First Cause has real existence, because it 
alone is self-sufficing, whilst everything else absolutely requires it; 
that a thing which for its existence stands in need of something else 
has only a dream-life, no real life, and that reality is only that one and 
first being (the First Cause). 

This is also the theory of the Sufis, i.e. the sages, for suf means in 
Greek wisdom (sophia). Therefore, a philosopher' is. called pailasopa 

On the Hindu Belief as to Created Things 


( philosophos) , i.e. loving wisdom. When in Islam persons adopted 

something like the doctrines of these 
Origin of the word Sufi philosophers , they also adopted their 

name; but some people did not 
understand the meaning of the word, and erroneously combined it 
with the Arabic word suffa, as if the Sufi (philosophoi ) were identical 
with the so-called A hl-assuffa among the companions of Muhammad. 
In later times the word was corrupted by misspelling, so that finally 
it was taken for a derivation from suf i.e. the wool of goats. Abu-alfath 
Albusti 9 made a laudable effort to avoid this mistake when he said, 
“From olden times people have differed as to the meaning of the 
word sufi, and have thought it a derivative from suf i.e. wool. I, for 
my part, understand by the word a youth who is safi, i.e. pure. This 
safe has become sufi, and in this form the name of a class of thinkers, 
the sufi 

Further, the same Greeks think that the existing world is only ont 
thing; that the First Cause appears in it under various shapes; that 
the power of the First Cause is inherent in the parts of the world 
under different circumstances, which cause a certain, difference of 
the things of the world notwithstanding their original unity. 

Others thought that he who turns with his whole being towards the 
First Cause , striving to become as much as possible similar to it, will 
become united with it after having passed the intermediate stages, 
and stripped of all appendages and impediments. Similar views are 
also held by the Sufi, because of the similarity of the dogma. 

As to the souls and spirits, the Greeks think that they exist by 
themselves before they enter bodies; that they exist in certain 
nombers and groups, which stand in various relations to each other, 
knowing each other and not knowing; that they, whilst staying in 
bodies, earn by the actions of their free-will that lot which awaits 
them after their separation from the bodies, i.e. the faculty of ruling 
the world in various ways. Therefore, they called them gods, built 
temples in their names and offered them sacrifices ... 

... The Greeks call in general god everything that is glorious and 
noble, and the like usage exists among many nations. They go even so 
far as to call gods the mountains, the seas, &c. Secondly, they apply 
the term god in a special sense to the First Cause, to the angels, and to 
their souls. According to a third usage, Plato calls gods the Sekinat 
(= rnousai). But on this subject the terms of the interpreters are riot 
perfectly clear; in consequence of which we only know the name, but 


India by Al-Biruni 

not what it means. . 

There are, however, certain expressions which are offensive 
according to the notions of one religion, whilst they are admissible 

according to those of another, which 
may pass in one language, whilst they 
are rejected by another. To this class 
belongs the word apotheosis, which has a 

Difference of denominating 
God in Arabic, Hebrew, and 

bad sound in the ears'of Muslims. If we consider the use of the word 
god in the Arabic language, we find that all the names by which the 
'pure truth, i.e. Allah, has been named, may somehow or other be 
applied to other beings besides him, except the word Allah, which 
only applies to God, and which has been called his greatest name. 

If we consider the use of the word in Hebrew and Syriac, in which 
two languages the sacred books before the Koran were revealed, we 
find that in the Thora and the following books of Prophets which are 
reckoned with the Thora as one whole, that word Rabb corresponds 
to the word Allah in Arabic, insofar as it cannot in a genitive 
construction be applied to anybody besides God, and you cannot say 
the rabb of the house, the rabb of the property (which in Arabic is 


.... Passing from the word God to those of father and son, we must 
state that Islam is not liberal in the use of them; for in Arabic the 
word son means nearly always as much as a child in the natural order 
of things, and from the ideas involved in parentage and birth can 
never be derived any expression meaning the Eternal Lord of 
creation. Other languages, however, take much more liberty in this 
respect; so that if people address a man by father, it is nearly the same 
as if they addressed him by sir. As is well known, phrases of this kind 
have become so prevalent among the Christians, that anybody who 
does not always use the words father and son in addressing people 
would scarcely be considered as one of them. By the son they 
understand most especially Jesus, but apply it also to others besides 


(Al-Biruni also refers to the anthropomorphic ideas of the 
Manichaeans, and then comes to the popular religious ideas of 
Hindus. P. 39-1 

. The educated among the Hindus abhor anthropomorphisms of 
this kind, but the crowd and the members of the single sects use them 
most extensively. They go even beyond all we have hitherto 


On the Hindu Belief as to Created Things 

mentioned, so as to speak of wife, son, 

Notions of the educated 
Hindus. All created beings 
are a unity 

educated daughter, of the rendering pregnant and 

other physical processes, all in connec¬ 
tion with God. They are even so little 

pious, that, when speaking of these things, they do not even abstain 
from silly and unbecoming language. However, nobody minds these 
classes and their theories, though they be numerous. The main and 
most essential point of the Hindu world of thought is that which the 
Brahmans think and believe, for they are specially trained for 
preserving and maintaining their religion. And this it is which we 
shall explain, viz. the belief of the Brahmans ... 

I. Those Hindus who prefer clear and accurate definitions to 
vague allusions call the soul purusha, which means man, because it is 

® . •• • 1_a Ai/irtinn U/nrlH 

the living element in the existing world. 
Life is the only attribute which they give 
to it. They describe it as alternately 


knowing and not knowing, as not knowing en praxei (actually), and as 
knowing en dunarnei (potentially), gaining knowledge by acquisition. 
The not-knowing of purusha is the cause why action comes into 
existence, and its knowing is the cause why action ceases. 

II. Next follows the general matter, i.e. the abstract hule, which 
they call avyakta, i.e. a shapeless thing. It is dead, but has three 

powers potentially, not actually, which 
are called sattva, rajas, and tamas. I have 
heard that Buddhodana 10 (sic), in 


speaking to his adherents the Shamanians, calls them buddha, 
dharma, sangha, as it were intelligence, religion, and ignorance (sic). The 
first power is rest and goodness, and hence come existing and 
growing. The second is exertion and fatigue, and hence come 
firmness and duration. The third is languor and irresolution, and 
hence come ruin and perishing. Therefore the first power is 
attributed to the angels, the second to men, the third to the animals. 
The ideas before, afterwards, and thereupon may be predicated of all 
these things only in the sense of a certain sequence and on account of 
the inadequacy of language, but not so as to indicate any ordinary 

notions of time. . 

III. Matter proceeding from dunamis into praxis under the various 

shapes and with the three primary forces is called vyakta, i.e. having 
shape, whilst the union of the abstract hule and of the shaped matter is 

called prakriti. This term, however, is of no use to us; we do not want 


India by Al-Biruni 

to speak of an abstract matter, the term 
Vyakta and Prakriti matter alone being sufficient for US, 

since the one does not exist without the 


IV. Next comes nature, which they call ahankara. The word is 
derived from the ideas of overpowering, developing, and self-assertion . 

because matter when assuming shape 
Ahankara causes things to develop into new 

forms, and this growing consists in the 
changing of a foreign element and assimilating it to the growing one. 
Hence it is as if nature were trying to overpower those other or foreign 
elements in this process of changing them, and were subduing that 
which is changed. 

V-IX. As a matter of course, each compound presupposes 
simple elements from which it is compounded and into which it is 

resolved again. The universal existences 
Mahabhuta in the world are the five elements, i.e. 

according to the Hindus: heaven, wind, 
fire, water, and earth. They are called mahabhuta, i.e. having great 
natures. They do not think, as other people do, that the fire is a hot dry 
body near the bottom of the ether. They understand by fire the 
common fire on earth which comes from an inflammation of smoke. 

X-XIV. As these elements are compound, they presuppose 
simple ones which are called panca mataras, i.e. five mothers. They 

describe them as the functions of the 
Panca mataras senses. The simple element of heaven is 

sabda i.e. that which is heard; that of the 
wind is sparsa, i.e. that which is touched; that of the fire is rupa, i.e. that 
which is seen; that of the water is rasa, i.e. that which is tasted; and that 
of the earth \s gandha, i.e. that which is smelled. With each of these 
mahabhuta elements (earth, water, etc.) they connect, firstly, one of 
the panca mataras elements, as we have here shown; and, secondly, all 
those which have been attributed to the mahabhuta elements pre¬ 
viously mentioned. So the earth has all five qualities; the water has 
them minus the smelling (= four qualities); the fire has them minus the 
smelling and tasting (i.e. three qualities); the wind has them minus 
smelling, tasting, and seeing (i.e. two qualities); heaven has them 
minus smelling, tasting, seeing, and touching (i.e. one quality). 

The result of all these elements which we have enumerated, i.e. 
a compound of all of them, is the animal. The Hindus consider the 

On the Hindu Belief as to Created Things 


plants as a species of animal as Plato also thinks that the plants have 
a sense, because they have the faculty of distinguishing between that 
which suits them and that which is detrimental to them. The animal 
is an animal as distinguished from a stone by virtue of its possession 
of the senses. 

XV-XIX. The senses are five, called indriyam, the hearing by the 

ear, the seeing by the eye, the smelling 
Indriyani by the nose, the tasting by the tongue, 

and the touching by the skin. 

XX. Next follows the will, which directs the senses the exercise 

of their various functions, and which 
Manas dwells in the heart. Therefore they 

call it manas. 

XXI-XXV. The animal nature is rendered perfect by five necessary 
functions, which they call karmendriyani, 
Karmendriyani i.e. the senses of action. The former 

senses bring about learning and 
knowledge, the latter action and work. We shall call them the 
necessaria. They are: 

1) To produce a sound for any of the different wants and wishes a 
man may have: 2) To throw the hands with force, in order to draw 
towards or to put away; 3) To walk with the feet, in order to seek 
something or to fly from it; 4-5) The ejection of the superfluous 
elements of nourishment by means of the two openings created for 

the purpose. 

Recapitulaion of the 
twenty-five elements 

The whole of these elments are twenty- 
five, viz.:— 

1. The general soul. 

2. The abstract hule. 

3. The shaped matter. 

4. The overpowering nature. 

5-9. The simple mothers. 

10-14. The primary elements. 

15-19. The senses of apperception. 

20. The directing will. 

21-25. The instrumental necessaria. 

The totality of these elements is called tattva , and all knowledge is 
restricted to them ... 


From What Cause Action Originates, And 
How The Soul Is Connected With Matter 

Voluntary actions cannot originate in the body of any animal, unless 

the body be living and exist in close contact with that which is living 

of itself, i.e. the soul. The Hindus 

The soul longing to be united maintain that the soul is m praxi’u not m 

with the body, is so united . . _ . 

by intermediary spirits dutuitnei, ignorant oi its own essential 

' nature and of its material substratum, 
longing to apprehend what it does not know, and believing that it 
cannot exist unless by matter. As, therefore, it longs for the good 
which is duration, and wishes to learn that which is hidden from it, it 
starts off in order to be united with matter. However, substances 
which are dense and such as are tenuous, if they have these qualities 
in the very highest degree, can mix together only by means of 
intermediary elements which stand in a certain relation to each of the 
' two. Thus the air is the medium between fire and water, which are 
opposed to each other by these two qualities, for the air is related to 
the fire in tenuity and to the water in density, and by either of these 
qualities it renders the one capable of mixing with the other. Now, 
there is no greater antithesis than that between body and not body. 
Therefore the soul, being what it is, cannot obtain the fulfilment of its 

From What Cause Action Originates 


wish but by similar media, spirits which derive their existence from 
the matres simplices in the worlds called Bhurloka, Bhuvarloka, and 
Svarloka. The Hindus call them tenuous bodies over which the soul 
rises like the sun over the earth, in order to distinguish them from the 
dense bodies which derive their existence from the common five 
elements. The soul, in consequence of this union with the media, 
uses them as its vehicles. Thus the image of the sun, though he is 
only one, is represented in many mirrors which are placed opposite 
to him, as also in the water of vessels placed opposite. The sun is 
seen alike in each mirror and each vessel, and in each of them his 
warming and light-giving effect is perceived ... 

Such, then, is the supreme highest cause of the soul’s starting off 
into action. 

On the other hand, the lowest cause, as proceeding from matter, is 
this: that matter for its part seeks for perfection, and always prefers 

that which is better to that which is less 
On matter seeking the good, viz. proceeding from dunamis into 

union with the soul praxis. In consequence of the vain-glory 

and ambition which are its pith and 
marrow, matter produces and shows all kinds of possibilities which it 
contains to its pupil, the soul, and carries it round through alj classes 
of vegetable and animal beings. 

... The book of Samkhya derives action from matter, for the 
difference of forms under which matter appears depends upon the 

three primary forces, and upon whether 
On matter as the cause of one or two of them gain the supremacy 
action according to the the remainder. These forces are 

philosophers the angelic, the human, and the animal. 

The three forces belong only to matter, 
not to the soul. The task of the soul is to learn the actions of matter 
like a spectator, resembling a traveller who sits down in a village to 
repose. Each villager is busy with his own particular work, but he 
looks at them and considers their doings, disliking some, liking 
others, and taking an example from them. In this way he is busy 
without having himself any share in the business going on, and 
without being the cause which has brought it about ... 

People say the soul resembles the rain-water which comes down 
from heaven, always the same and of the same nature. However, if it 
is gathered in vessels placed for the purpose, vessels of different 
materials, of gold, silver, glass, earthenware, clay, or bitter-salt 


India by Al-Biruni 

earth, it begins to differ in appearance, taste, and smell. Thus the 
soul does not influence matter in any way, except in this, that it gives 
matter life by being in close contact with it When, then, matter 
begins to act, the result is different in conformity with the one of the 
three primary forces which happens to preponderate, and conformably 
to the mutual assistance which the other two latent forces afford to 
the former. This assistance may be given in various ways, as the 
fresh oil, the dry wick, and the smoking fire help each other to 
produce light. The soul is in matter like the rider on a carriage, being 
attended by the senses, who drive the carriage according to the 
rider’s intentions. But the soul for its part is guided by the 
intelligence with which it is inspired by God. This intelligence they 
describe as that by which the reality of things is apprehended, which 
shows the way to the, knowledge of God, and to such actions as are 
liked and praised by everybody. 


On The State Of The Souls, And Their 
Migrations Through The World In The 

As the word of confession, “There is no god but God, Muhammad is his 
prophet,” is the shibboleth of Islam, the Trinity that of Christianity, 
and the institute of the Sabbath that of Judaism, so metempsychosis 
is the shibboleth of the Hindu religion. Therefore, he who does not 
believe in it does not belong to them, and is not reckoned as one of 
them. For they hold the. following belief: 

The soul, as long as it has not risen to the highest absolute 

intelligence, does not comprehend the totality of objects at once, or, 

as it were, in no time. Therefore it must 

Beginning, development, explore all particular beings and 

and ultimate result of . . „ Al ....... c 

metempsychosis examine all the possibilities or 

existence; and as their number is,though 
not unlimited, still an enormous one, the soul wants an enormous 
space of time in order to finish the contemplation of such a multi¬ 
plicity of objects. The soul acquires knowledge only by the con¬ 
templation of the individuals and the species, and of their peculiar 
actions and conditions. It gains experience from each object, and 
gathers thereby new knowledge. 


India by Al-Biruni 

However, these actions differ in the same measure as the thret 
primary forces differ. Besides, the world is not left without some 
direction, being led, as it were, by a bridle and directed towards a 
definite scope. Therefore the imperishable souls wander about in 
perishable bodies conformably to the difference of their actions, as 
they prove to be good or bad. The object of the migration through the 
world of reward (i.e. heaven) is to direct the attention of the soul to 
the good, that it should become desirous of acquiring as much of it as 
possible. The object of its migration through the world of punishment 
{i.e. hell) is to direct its attention to the bad and abominable, that it 
should strive to keep as far as possible aloof from it. 

The migration begins from low stages, and rises to higher and 
better ones, not the contrary, as we state on purpose, since the one is 
a priori as possible as the other. The difference of these lower and 
higher stages depends upon the difference of the actions, and this 
again results from the quantitative and qualitative diversity of the 
temperaments and the various degrees of combinations in which 
they appear. 

This migration lasts until the object aimed at has been completely 
attained both for the soul and matter; the lower aim being the 
disappearance of the shape of matter, except any such new 
formation as may appear desirable; the higher aim being the ceasing 
of the desire of the soul to learn what it did not know before the 
insight of the soul into the nobility of its own being and its 
independent existence, its knowing that it can dispense with matter 
after it has become acquainted with the mean nature of matter and 
the instability of its shapes, with all that which matter offers to the 
senses, and with the truth of the tales about its delights. Then the 
soul turns away from matter, the connecting links are broken, the 
union is dissolved. Separation and dissolution take place, and the 
soul returns to its home, carrying with itself as much of the bliss of 
knowledge as sesame develops grains and blossoms, afterwards 
never separating from its oil. The intelligent being, intelligence and 
its object, are united and become one. 

It is now our duty to produce from their literature some clear 
testimonies as to this subject and cognate theories of other nations. 

[There follow some quotations from the Gita and other Hindu 
scriptures. Attention is also drawn to the similar views of the 
Greeks, and Socrates’ work Phaedo is quoted. Pp. 52-57.] 

The same doctrine is professed by those Sufis who teach that 


The State of the Souls 

this world is a sleeping soul and yonder world a soul awake, and who 
at the same time admit that God is immanent in certain places—e.g. 

in heaven—in the seat and the throne ot 

Sun doctrine God (mentioned in the Koran). But 

then there are others who admit that 
God is immanent in the whole world, in animals, trees, and the 
inanimate world, which they call his universal appearance. To those 
who hold this view, the entering of the souls into various bemgs in 
the course of metempsychosis is of no consequence. 


On The Different Worlds, And On The Places 
Of Retribution In Paradise And Hell 

The Hindus call the world loka. Its primary division consists of the 
upper, the low, and the middle. The upper one is called svarloka i.e. 

paradise; the low, nagaloka i.e. the world 
The 111166 of the serpents, which is hell; besides 

they call it naraloka, and sometimes also 
patala, i.e. the lowest world. The middle world, that one in which we 
live, is called madhyaloka and manushyaloka, i.e. the world of men. In 
the latter, man has to earn, in the upper to receive his reward; in the 
low, to receive punishment. A man who deserves to come to svarloka 
or nagaloka receives there the full recompense of his deeds during a 
certain length of time corresponding to the duration of his deeds, but 
in either of them there is only the soul, the soul free from the body. 

For those who do not deserve to rise to heaven and to sink as low 
as hell there is another world called tiryagloka, the irrational world of 
plants and animals, through the individuals of which the soul has to 
wander in the metempsychosis until it reaches the human being, 
rising by degrees from the lowest kinds of the vegetable world to 
highest classes of the sensitive world. The stay of the soul in this 
world has one of the following causes: either the award which is due 

On the Different Worlds 


to the soul is not sufficient to raise it into heaven or to sink it into 
hell, or the soul is in its wanderings on the way back from hell; for 
they believe that a soul returning to the human world from heaven at 
once adopts a human body, whilst that one which returns there from 
hell has first to wander about in plants and animals before it reaches 
the degree of living in a human body. 

The Hindus speak in their traditions of a large number of hells, of 
% their qualities and their names, and for each kind of sin they have a 
Quotation from the special hell. The number of hells is 

vishnu-Purana 88,000 according to the Vishnu-Puranal 1 

[Al-Biruni quotes from this book about the different kinds of sins 
committed by the people and the hells prescribed for them. Among 
such persons is ‘he who bears false witness... sheds innocent blood 
.. kills cows (and) ... a Brahman ... commits adultery with his 
sister or the wife of his son ... contemns the Veda and Puranas ... 
does not honour the rights of parents’... makes swords and knives, 
rears cocks, cats and pigs, cuts down trees and—worst of all- 
neglects customs and violates laws. Al-Biruni adds that he was 
listing these ‘only in order to show what kinds of deeds the Hindus 
abhor as sins.’ Pp. 60-61.) 

Some Hindus believe that the middle world, that one for earning, 
is the human world, and that a man wanders about in it, because he 

has received a reward which does not 
According to some Hindus, lead him into heaven, but at the same 

a se «»•*»» ml tm m.** 

of hell heaven as a higher stage, where a man 

lives in a state of Miss which must be of 
a certain duration on account of the good deeds he has done. On the 
contrary, they consider the wandering about in plants and animals as 
a lower stage, where a man dwells for punishment for a certain 
length of time, which is thought to correspond to the wretched deeds 
he has done. People who hold this view do not know of another hell, 
but this kind of degradation below the degree of living as a human 

All these degrees of retribution are necessary for this reason, that 
the seeking for salvation from the fetters of matter frequently does 

not proceed on the straight line which 
Moral principles of leads to absolute knowledge, but on 

metempsychosis lines chosen by guessing or chosen 

because others had chosen them. Not 


India by Al-Biruni 

one action of man shall be lost, not even the last of all; it shall be 
brought to his account after his good and bad actions have been 
balanced against each other. The retribution, however, is not 
according to the deed, but according to the intention which a man 
had in doing it; and a man will receive his reward either in the form in 
which he lives on earth, or in that form into which his soul will 
migrate, or in a kind of intermediary state after he has left his shape 
and has not yet entered a new one. 

Here now the Hindus quit the path of philosophical speculation 
and turn aside to traditional fables as regards the two places where 

reward or punishment is given, e.g. that 
S£S&. a *““ »» ««“ there as an incorporeal 

being, and that after having received the 
reward of his actions he again returns to a bodily appearance and 
human shape, in order to be prepared for his further destiny. 
Therefore, the author of the book Samkhya does not consider the 
reward of paradise a special gain, because it has an end and is not 
eternal, and because this kind of life resembles the life of this our 
world; for it is not free from ambition and envy, having in itself 
various degrees and classes of existence, whilst cupidity and desire 
do not cease save where there is perfect equality. 

The Sufi, too, do not consider the stay in paradise a special gain 
for another reason, because there the soul delights ill other things but 

the Truth, i.e. God, and its thoughts are 
Sufi Parallel diverted from the Absolute Good by 

things which are not the Absolute Good. 

We have already said that, according to the belief of the Hindus, 
the soul exists in these two places without a body. But this is only the 

view of the educated among them, who 
On the soul leaving the understand by the soul an independent 

views being. However, the lower classes, and 

those who cannot imagine the existence 
of the soul without a body, hold about this subject verv different 
views. One is this, that the cause of the agony of death is the soul’s 
waiting for a shape which is to be prepared. It does not quit the body 
before there has originated a cognate being of similar functions, one 
of those which nature prepares either as an embryo in a mother’s 
womb or as a seed in the bosom of the earth. Then the soul quits the 
body in which it has been staying. 

Others hold the more traditional view that the soul does not wait 

On the Different Worlds 


for such a thing, that it quits its shape on account of its weakness 
whilst another body has been prepared for it out of the elements. 
This body is called ativahika, i.e. that which grows in haste, because it 
does not come into existence by being bom. The soul stays in this 
body a complete year in the greatest agony, no matter whether it has 
deserved to be rewarded or to be punished. This is like the Barzakh 
of the Persians, an intermediary stage between the periods of acting 
and earning and that of receiving award. For this reason the heir of 
the deceased must, according to Hindus use, fulfil the rites of the 
year for the deceased, duties which end with the end of the year, for 
then the soul goes to that place which is prepared for it. 

[Extracts from the Vishnu-Purana are quoted to illustrate these 
ideas, Pp. 63-64.] 

... A theosoph who inclines towards metempsychosis says: “The 
metempsychosis has four degrees: 

1. “The transferring, i.e. the procreation as limited to the human 
species, because it transfers existence from one individual to another; 

the opposite of this is— 

2. “The transforming which concerns 
men in particular, since they are trans¬ 
formed into monkeys, pigs, and elephants. 

3. “A stable condition of existence, like the condition of the plants. 
This is worse than transferring because it is a stable condition of life, 
remains as it is through all times, and lasts as long as the mountains.” 

4. “The dispersing the opposite of number 3, which applies to the 
plants that are plucked, and to animals immolated as sacrifice, 
because they vanish without leaving posterity.” 

Abu-Yakub of Sijistan maintains in his book, called The disclosing of 
that which is veiled, that the species are preserved; that metem¬ 
psychosis always proceeds in one and the same species, never 
crossing its limits and passing into another species. 

This was also the opinion of the ancient Greeks; ... 

[Extracts from Socrates’ Phaedo are given; also the views of Plato 
as stated by Johannes Grammaticus, pp. 65-67.] 

Muslim authors on 


On The Nature Of Liberation From The World, 
And On The Path Leading Thereto 

If the soul is bound up with the world, and its being bound up has a 
certain cause, it cannot be liberated from this bond save by the 

opposite of this identical cause. Now 
First part according to the Hindus, as we have 

Moksha in gene already explained, the reason of the 

bond is ignorance, and therefore it can only be liberated by knowledge, 
by comprehending all things in such a way as to define them both in 
general and in particular, rendering superfluous any kind of 
deduction and removing all doubts. For the soul distinguishing 
between things ( ta onta) by means of definitions, recognises its own 
self, and recognises at the same time that it is its noble lot to last for 
ever, and that it is the vulgar lot of matter to change and to perish in 
all kinds of shapes. Then it dispenses with matter, and perceives that 
that which it held to be good and delightful is in reality bad and 
painful. In this manner it attains real knowledge and turns away from 
being arrayed in matter. Thereby action ceases, and both matter and 
soul become free by separating from each other. 

The terms of the Sufi as to the knowing being and his attaining 
the stage of knowledge come to the same effect, for they maintain that 

The Nature of Liberation from the World 


he has two souls—an eternal one, not 
Sufi parallel exposed to change and alteration, by 

which he knows that which is hidden, 
the transcendental world, and performs wonders; and another, a 
human soul, which is liable to being changed and being bom. 

... According to the Hindus, the organs of the senses have been 
made for acquiring knowledge, and the pleasures which they afford 
have been created to stimulate people to research and investigation, 
as the pleasure which eating and drinking afford to the taste has been 
created to preserve the individual by means of nourishment. So the 
pleasure of coitus serves to preserve the species by giving birth to new 
individuals. If there was not special pleasure in these two functions, 
man and animals would not practice them for these purposes. 

... Further, the Hindus think that a man becomes knowing in one 
of three ways:— 

1. By being inspired, not in a certain course of time, but at once, at 
birth, and in the cradle as, e.g. the sage Kapila, for he was bom 
knowing and wise. 

2. By being inspired after a certain time, like the children of 
Brahman, for they were inspired when they came of age. 

3. By learning, and after a certain course of time, like all men who 
learn when their mind ripens. 

Liberation through knowledge can only be obtained by abstaining 
from evil. The branches of evil are many, but we may classify them as 

cupidity, wrath, and ignorance. If the roots 

Cupidity, wrath and arc cut the branches will wither. And 

ignorance are the chief , t , 

obstacles to Moksha here we have first to consider the rule of 

the two forces of cupidity and wrath, 
which are the greatest and most pernicious enemies of man, deluding 
him bv the pleasure of eating and the delight of revenge, whilst in 
reality they are much more likely to lead him into pains and crimes. 
They make a man similar to the wild beasts and the cattle, nay, 
even to the demons and devils. 

Next, we have to consider that man must prefer the reasoning 
force of mind, by which he becomes similar to the highest angels, to 
the forces of cupidity and wrath; and, lastly, that he must turn away 
from the actions of the world. He cannot, however, give up these 
actions unless he does away with their causes, which are his lust and 
ambition. Thereby the second of the three primary forces is cut away. 
However, the abstaining /row action takes place in two different ways: 


India by Al-Biruni 

1. by laziness, procrastination, and ignorance according to the 
third force. This mode is not desirable, for it will lead to a blamable 

2. By judicious selection and by preferring that which is better to 
that which is good, which way leads to a laudable end. 

The abstaining from actions is rendered perfect in this way, that a 
man quits anything that might occupy him and shuts himself up 
against it. Thereby he will be enabled to restrain his senses from 
extraneous objects to such a degree that he does not any more know 
that there exists anything besides himself, and be enabled to stop all 
motions, and even the breathing. It is evident that a greedy man 
strains to effect his object, the man who strains becomes tired, and 
the tired man pants; so the panting is the result of greediness. If this 
greediness is removed, the breathing becomes like the breathing of a 
being living at the bottom of the sea, that does not want breath; and 
then the heart quietly rests on one thing, viz. the search for liberation 
and for arriving at the absolute unity. 

... On account of what we have explained, it is necessary that 
cogitation should be continuous, not in any way to be defined by 
number; for a number always denotes repeated times, and repeated 
times presuppose a break in the cogitation occurring between two 
consecutive times. This would interrupt the continuity, and would 
prevent cogitation becoming united with the object of cogitation. 
And this is not the object kept in view, which is, on the contrary, the 

cpntinuity of cogitation. 

This goal is attained either in a single shape, i.e. a single stage of 
metempsychosis, or in several shapes, in this way, that a man 
perpetually practises virtuous behaviour and accustoms the soul 
thereto, so that this virtuous behaviour becomes to it a nature and an 

essential quality. 
Virtuous behaviour 

The nine commandments 
of the Hindu religion 

is that which is described by the religious law. 
Its principal laws, from which they 
derive many secondary ones, may be 
summed up in following nine rules:— 

1. A man shall not kill. 

2. Nor lie. 

3. Nor steal. 

4. Nor whore. 

5. Nor hoard up treasures. 

6. He is perpetually to practise holiness and purity. 


The Nature of Liberation from the World 

7. He is to perform the prescribed fasting without an interruption 
and to dress poorly. 

8. He is to hold fast to the adoration of God with praise and 

9. He is always to have in mind the word am, the word of creation, 

without pronouncing it. . 

The injunction to abstain from killing as regards animals (No. 1) is 
only a special part of the general order to abstain from doing anything 
hurtful. Under this head falls also the robbing of another man’s goods 
(No. 3), and the telling lies (No. 2), not to mention the foulness and 

baseness of so doing. . 

The abstaining from hoarding up (No. 5) means that a man is to 
gi,e up toil and fatigue; that he who seeks the bounty of God feels 
sure that he is provided for; and that, starting from the base slavery 
of material life, we may, by the noble liberty of cogitation, attain 

eternal bliss. 

Practising purity (No. 6) implies that a man knows the filth of the 
body, and that he feels called upon to hate it, and to love cleanliness 
of soul. Tormenting oneself by poor dress (No. 7) means that a man 
should redur • ■■ he body, allay its feverish desires, and sharpen its senses... 
The holding fast to meditation on God and the angels means a 

kind of familiar intercourse with them. 

... In the book of Patanjali we read; 

(foksha “We divide the P ath of liberation 11110 

three parts:— 

“I. The practical one (kriya-yoga), a process of habituating the senses 
in a gentle way to detach themselves from the external world, and to 

concentrate themselves upon the 
internal one, so that they exclusively 
occupy themselves with God. This is in 
general the path of him who does not 
desire anything save what is sufficient to sustain life.” 

[Relevant extracts from Vishnu Dharma 12 and the Gita are given. 
Pp. 77-79.] 

... II. The second part of the path of liberation is renunciation 
(the via omissionis ), based on the knowledge of the evil which exists in 

the changing things of creation and their 
The path of renunciation as vanishing shapes. In consequence the 

the second part of the path heart s h U ns them, the longing for them 

of liberation according to . . . , _ 

the Gita ceases, and a man is raised above the 

Second part: The practical 
path leading to Mok 

According to Patanjali, 
Vishnu-Dharma, and the 


India by Al-Biruni 

three primary forces which are the cause of actions and of their diversity. 
For he who accurately understands the affairs of the world knows that 
the good ones among them are evil in reality, and that the bliss which 
they afford changes in the course of recompense into pains. 
Therefore, he avoids everything which might aggravate his condition 
of being entangled in the world, and which might result in making him 
stay in the world for a still longer period. 

.. . III. The third part of the^ path of liberation which is to be 
considered a instrumental to the preceding two is worship , for this 

purpose, that God should help a man to 
Worship as the third part of obtain liberation, and deign to consider 
according to the Gita him worthy of such a shape of existence 

in the metempsychosis in which he may 
effect his progress towards beatitude. 

The author of the book Gita distributes the duties of worship 
among the body, the voice, and the heart. 

What the body has to do is fasting, prayer, the fulfilment of the law, 
the service towards the angels and the sages among the Brahmans, 
keeping clean the body, keeping aloof from killing under all circum¬ 
stances. and never looking at another man’s wife and other’s property. 

What the voice has to do is the reciting of the holy texts, praising 
God, always to speak the truth, to address people mildly, to guide 
them, and to order them to do good. 

What the heart has to do is to have straight, honest intentions, to 
avoid haughtiness, always to be patient, to keep your senses under 
control, and to have a cheerful mind. 

... According to the Hindus, liberation is union with God; for 
they describe God as a being who can dispense with hoping for a 

recompense or with fearing opposition, 
On ( the nature of Moksha unattainable to thought, because he is 

sublime beyond all unlikeness which is 
abhorrent and all likeness which is sympathetic, knowing himself not 
by a knowledge which comes to him like an accident, regarding 
something which had not in every phase before been known to him. 
And this same description the Hindus apply to the liberated one, for he 
is equal to God in all these things except in the matter of beginning, 
since he has not existed from all eternity, and except this, that before 
liberation he existed in the world of entanglement, knowing the objects 
of knowledge only by a phantasmagoric kind of knowing which he 
had acquired by absolute exertion, whilst the object of his knowing is 

The Nature of Liberation from the World < 37 

still covered, as it were, by a veil. On the contrary, in the world of 
liberation all veils are lifted, all covers taken off, and obstacles 
removed. There the being is absolutely knowing, not desirous ot 
learning anything unknown, separated from the soiled perceptions o 
the senses, united with the everlasting ideas. Therefore, m the end ot 

the book of Patanjali, after the pupil has 
Quotations from Patanjali asked about the nature of liberation the 

master says: “If you wish, say Libera¬ 
tion is the cessation of the functions of the three forces, and their 
returning to that home whence they had come. Or if you wish, say, it 
is the return of the soul as a knowing being into its own nature. 

Similar views are also met with among the Sufi. Some Sufi 
author relates the following story: “A company of Sufi came down 

unto us, and sat down at some distance 

Sufi parallels from us. Then one of them rose, prayed, 

and on, having finished his prayer, 
turned towards me and spoke: ‘O master, do you know here a place 
fit for us to die, on?’ Now I thought he meant sleeping, and so I pointed 
out to him a place. The man went there, threw himself on the back of 
his head, and remained motionless. Now I rose, went to him and 
shook him but lo! he was already cold.” 

The Sufi explains the Koranic verse, “We have made room for 
him on earth” (Sura 18, 83), in this way: “If he wishes, the earth 
rolls itself up for him; if he wishes, he can walk on the water and in 
the air, which offer him sufficient resistance so as to enable him to 
walk, whilst the mountains do not offer him any resistance when he 
wants to pass through them.” 

We next speak of those who, notwithstanding their greatest 

exertions, do not reach the stage of 

On those who do not reach liberation There are several classes ot 
Moksha according to Snmkhya 


[Extracts from the Snmkhya are given in regard to those who do not 
attain moksha (salvation). Similar ideas of some Greek writers such 
as Ammonius, Plato and Proculus are referred to, Pp. 83-86.] 

The doctrine of Patanjali is akin to that of the Sufi regarding being 
occupied in meditation on the Truth (i.e. God), for they say, As long 
as you point to something, you cannot be a monist; but when the Truth 
seizes upon the object of your pointing and annihilates it, then there 
is no longer an indicating person nor an object indicated. 

There are some passages in their system which show that they 


India by Al-Biruni 

believe in the pantheistic union; e.g. one of them, being asked what is 
the Truth (God), gave the following answer “How should I not know 
the being which is / in essence and Not-1 in space? If I return once 
more into existence, thereby I am separated from him; and if I am 
neglected (i.e. not bom anew and sent into the world), thereby I 
become light and become accustomed to the union 99 (sic). . . 

Abu-Yazid Albistami once being asked how he had attained his 
stage in Sufism, answered: “I cast off my own self as a serpent casts 
off its skin. Then I considered my own self and found that I was He, 99 
i.e. God. ... 

[Al-Biruni concludes the chapter by adding that the Sufis say:] 
“Between man and God there are a thousand stages of light and 
darkness. Men exert themselves to pass through darkness to light, 
and when they have attained to the stations of light, there is no return 
for them.” 


On The Different Classes Of Created Beings, 
And On Their Names 

The subject of this chapter is very difficult to study and understand 
accurately, since we Muslims look at it from without, and the 

Hindus themselves do not work it out to 
scientific perfection. As we, however, 
want it for the further progress of this 
treatise, we shall communicate all we 

The various classes of 
creatures according to 


have heard of it until the date of the present book. And first we give 
an extract from the book Samkhya. 

“The anchorite spoke: ‘How many classes and species are there of 
living bodies?’ 

“The sage replied: ‘There are three classes of them—the spiritual 
ones in the height, men in the middle, and animals in the depth. Their 
species are fourteen in number, eight of which belong to the spiritual 
beings: Brahman, Indra, Prajapati, Saumya, Gandharva, Yaksha, 
Rakshasa, and Pisaca. Five species are those of the animals—cattle, 
wild beasts, birds, creeping things, and growing things, i.e. the trees. 
And, lastly, one species is represented by man.’” 

The author of the same book has in another part of it given the 
following enumeration with different names: “Brahman, Indra, 


India by Al-Biruni 

Prajapati, Gandharva, Yaksha, Rakshasa, Pitaras, Pisaca.” 

The Hindus are people who rarely preserve one and the same 
order of things, and in their enumeration of things there is much that 
is arbitrary. They use or invent numbers of names, and who is to 
hinder or to control them? 

. . . According to the most popular view of the majority of the 
Hindus, there are the following eight classes of spiritual beings:— 

1. The Deva, or angels, to whom the 
The author enumerates north belongs. They specially belong to 

bemgs ClaSSeS ° f spmtual the Hindus. People say that Zoroaster 

made enemies of the Shamaniyya or 
Buddhists by calling the devils by the name of the class of angels 
which they consider the highest, i.e. Deva. And this usage has been 
transmitted from Magian times down to the Persian language of our 

2. Daitya, danava , the demons who live in the south. To them 
everybody belongs who opposes the religion of the Hindus and 
persecutes the cows. Notwithstanding the near relationship which 
exists between them and the Deva, there is, as Hindus maintain, no 
end of quarrelling and fighting among them. 

3. Gandharva, the musicians and singers who make music before 
the Deva. Their harlots are called Apsaras. 

4. Yaksha, the treasurers or guardians of the Deva. 

5. Rakshasa , demons of ugly and deformed shapes. 

6. Kinnara, having human shapes but horses’ heads, being the 
contrary of the centaurs of the Greek, of whom the lower half has the 
shape of a horse, the upper half that of a man. The latter figure is that 
of the Zodiacal sign of Arcitenens. 

7. Xaga, beings in the shape of serpents. 

8. Vidyadhara, demon-sorcerers, who exercise a certain witcftcr’aft, 
but not such a one as to produce permanent results. 

If we consider this series of beings, we find the angelic power at 
the upper end and the demoniac at the lower, and between them 

there is much interblending. The 
Criticisms on this list qualities of these beings are different, 

inasmuch as they have attained this 
stage of life in the course of metempsychosis by actum, and actions 
are different'pn account of the three primary forces. They live very long, 
since they have entirely stripped off the bodies, since they are free 
from all exertion, and are able to do things which are impossible t' 

The Different Classes of Created Beings 41 

mdn. They serve man in whatever he desires, and are near him in 
case of need. 

However, we can learn from the extract from Samkhya that this 
view is not correct. For Brahman, Indra, and Prajapati are not 
names of species, but of individuals. Brahman and Prajapati very 
nearly mean the same, but they bear different names on account of 
some quality or other. Indra is the ruler of the worlds. Besides, 
Vasudeva enumerates the Yaksha and Rakshasa together in one and 
the same class of demons, whilst the Puranas represent the Yaksha 
as guardian-angels and the servants of guardian-angels. 

After all this, we declare that the spiritual beings which we have 
mentioned, are one category, who have attained their present stage 

of existence by action during the time 
On the Devas when they were human beings. They 

have left their bodies behind them, for 
bodies are weights which impair the power and shorten the duration 
of life. Their qualities and conditions are different, in the same 
measure as one or other of the three primary forces prevails over them. 
The first force is peculiar to the Deva, or angels who live in quietness 
and bliss. The predominant faculty of their mind is the comprehend¬ 
ing of an idea without matter ; as it is the predominant faculty of the 
mind of man to comprehend the idea in matter. 

The third force is peculiar to the Pisaca and Bhuta, whilst the 
second is peculiar to the classes between them. 

The Hindus say that the number of Deva is thirty-three koti or 
crore, of which eleven belong to Mahadeva. Therefore this number is 
one of his surnames, and his name .itself (Mahadeva) points in this 
direction. The sum of the number of angels just mentioned would be 

Further, they represent the Deva as eating and drinking, 
cohabiting, living and dying, since they exist within matter, though in 
the most subtle and most simple kind of it, and since they have 
attained this by action, not by knowledge. The book Patanjali relates 
that Nandikesvara offered many sacrifices to Mahadeva, and was in 
consequence transferred into paradise in his human shape; that 
Indra, the ruler, had intercourse with the wife of Nahusha the 
Brahmin, and therefore was changed into a serpent by way of 

After the Deva comes the class of the Pitaras, the deceased 
ancestors, and after them the Bhuta, human beings who have 


India by Al-Biruni 

attached themselves to the spiritual beings (Deva), and stand in the 
middle between them and mankind. He who holds this degree, but 

without being free from the body, is 
On the Pitaras and Rishis called either Rishi, Siddha or Muni, and 

these differ among themselves accord¬ 
ing to their qualities. Siddha is he who has attained by his action the 
faculty to do in the world whatever he likes, but who does not aspire 
further, and does not exert himself on the path leading to liberation. 
He may ascend to the degree of a Rishi. If a Brahmin attains this 
degree, he is called Brahmarshi; if the Kshatriya attains it, he is called 
Rajarshi. It is not possible for the lower classes to attain this degree. 
Rishis are the sages who, though they are only human beings, excel 
the angels on account of their knowledge. Therefore, the angels learn 
from them, and above them there is none but Brahman. 

After the Brahmarshi and Rajarshi come those classes of the 
populace which exist also among us, the castes, to whom we shall 
devote a separate chapter. 

All these latter beings are ranged under matter. Now, as regards 
the notion of that which is above matter, we say that the hule is the 

middle between matter and the spiritual 

Vishnu the unity of Brahman, divine ideas that are above matter, and 
Narayana, and Rudra , r . . . .. . 

that the three primary forces exist in the 

hide dynamically ( en dunamei). So the hule with all that is 

comprehended in it, is a bridge from above to below. 

Any life which circulates in the hule under the exclusive influence 
of the First Cause is called Brahman, Prajapati, and by many other 
names which occur in their religious law and tradition. It is identical 
with nature insofar as it is active, for all bringing into existence, the 
creation of the world also, is attributed by them to Brahman. 

Any life which circulates in the hule under the influence of the 
second force is called Narayana in the tradition of the Hindus, which 
means nature insofar as it has reached the end of its action, and is 
now striving to preserve that which has been produced. Thus 
Narayana strives so to arrange the world that it should endure. 

Any life which circulates in the hule under the influence of the third 
force is called Mahadeva and Samkara, but his best-known name is 
Rudra. His work is destruction and annihilation, like nature in the last 
stages of activity, when its power slackens. 

These three beings bear different names, as they circulate through 
the various degrees to above and below, and accordingly their 

The Different Classes of Created Beings 


actions are different. 

But prior to all these beings there is one source whence every¬ 
thing is derived, and in this unity they comprehend all three things, 
no more separating one from the other. This unity they call Vishnu, a 
name which more properly designates the middle force; but sometimes 
they do not even make a distinction between this middle force and the 
first cause (i.e. they make Narayana the causa causarum). 

Here there is an analogy between Hindus and Christians, as the 
latter distinguish between the Three Persons and give them separate 
names, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but unite them into one 

This is what clearly results from a careful examination of the 
Hindu doctrines. Of their traditional accounts, which are full of silly 
notions, we shall speak hereafter in the course of our explanation. 
You must not wonder if the Hindus, in their stories about the class of 
the Deva, whom we have explained as angels, allow them all sorts of 
things, unreasonable in themselves, some perhaps not objectionable, 
others decidedly objectionable both of which the theologians of 
Islam would declare to be incompatible with the dignity and nature 
of angels. 

If you compare these traditions with those of the Greeks regarding 

their own religion, you will cease to find 
the Hindu system strange . .. 

[The stories of Zeus are mentioned. Al- 

Greek parallels. 
Stories about Zeus 

Biruni remarks, as stated above, that compared to the Greek stories 
those of the Hindus were less strange. Pp. 95-98.] 


On The Castes, Called “Colours” (Varna), And 
On The Classes Below Them 

If a new order of things in political or social life is created by a man 
naturally ambitious of ruling, who by his character and capacity 

really deserves to be a ruler, a man of 
Throne and altar firm convictions and unshaken determi¬ 

nation, who even in times of reverses is 
supported by good luck, insofar as people then side with him in 
recognition of former merits of his, such an order is likely to become 
consolidated among those for whom it was created, and to continue 
as firm as the deeply rooted mountains. It will remain among them as 
a generally recognised rule in all generations through the course of 
time and the flight of ages. If, then, this new form of state or society 
rests in some degree on religion, these twins, state and religion, are 
in perfect harmony, and their union represents the highest develop¬ 
ment of human society, all that men can possibly desire. 

The kings of antiquity, who were industriously devoted to the 
duties of their office, spent most of their care on the division of their 
subjects into different classes and orders, which they tried to 
preserve from intermixture and disorder. Therefore, they forbade 
people of different classes to have intercourse with each other, and 

I he Castes, Called "Colours” ( Varna) 


laid upon each class a particular kind of work or art and handicraft. 
They did not allow anybody to transgress the limits of his class, and 
even punished those who would not be content with their class. 

All this is well illustrated by the history of the ancient Chosroes 
(Khusrau), for they had created great institutions of this kind, which 

could not be broken through by the 
special merits of any individual nor by 
bribery. When Ardashir ben Babak 

Custes of the ancient 

restored the Persian empire, he also restored the classes or castes of 
the population in the following way:— 

The first class were the knights and princes. 

The second class the monks, the fire-priests, and the lawyers. 

The third class the physicians, astronomers, and other men of 

The .fourth class the husbandmen and artisans. 

And within these classes there were subdivisions, distinct from 
each other, like the species within a genus. All institutions of this 
kind are like a pedigree, as long as their origin is remembered; but 
when once their origin has been forgotten, they become, as it were, 
the stable property of the whole nation, nobody any more 
questioning its-origin. And forgetting is the necessary result of any 
long period of time, of a long succession of centuries and 

Among the Hindus institutions of this kind abound. We Muslims, 
of course, stand entirely on the other side of the question, 
considering all men as equal, except in piety; and this is the greatest 
obstacle which prevents any approach or understanding between 
Hindus and Muslims. 

The Hindus call their castes vama, i.e. colours , and from a 

genealogical point of view they call 
The four castes them jataka, i.e. births. These castes are 

from the very beginning only four. 

I. The highest caste are the Brahmana, of whom the books of the 
Hindus tell that they were created from the head of Brahman. And as 
Brahman is only another name for the force called nature, and the 
head is the highest part of the animal body, the Brahmana are the 
choice part of the whole genus. Therefore, the Hindus consider them 
as the very best of mankind. 

II. The next caste are the Kshatriya, who were created, as they 
say, from the shoulders and hands of Brahman. Their degree is not 


India by Al-Biruni 

much below that of the Brahmana. 

III. After them follow the Vaisya, who were created from the thigh 
of Brahman. 

IV. The Sudra, who were created from his feet. 

Between the latter two classes there is not very great distance. 
Much, however, as these classes differ from each other, they live 
together in the same towns and villages, mixed together in the same 
houses and lodgings. 

After the Sudra follow the people called Antyaja, who render 
various kinds of services, who are not reckoned amongst any caste, 

but only as members of a certain craft 
1 >ow-caste people or profession. There are eight 13 classes 

of them, who freely intermarry with 
each other, except the fuller, shoemaker, and weaver, for no others 
would condescend to have anything to do with them. These eight 
guilds are the fuller, shoemaker, juggler, the basket and shield maker, 
the sailor, fisherman, the hunter of wild animals and of birds, and the 
weaver. The four castes do not live together with them in one and the 
same place. These guilds live near the villages and towns of the four 
castes, but outside them. 

The people called Hadi, Doma (Domba), Candala, and Badhatau 
(sic) are not reckoned amongst any caste or guild. They are occupied 
with dirty work, like the cleansing of the villages and other services. 
They are considered as one sole class, and distinguished only by 
their occupations. In fact, they are considered like illegitimate 
children; for according to general opinion they descend from a Sudra 
father and a Brahmani mother as the children of fornication; 
therefore they are degraded outcastes. 

The Hindus give to every single man ot the four castes charac¬ 
teristic names, according to their occupations and modes of life. For 

example, the Brahmana is in general 
called by this name as long as he does 
his work staying at home. When he is 
busy with the service of one fire, he is called ishtin; if he serves three 
fires, he is called agnihotrin; if he besides offers an offering to the fire, 
he is called dikshita. And as it is with the Brahmana, so is it also with 
the other castes. Of the classes beneath the castes, the Hadi are the 
best spoken of, because they keep themselves free from everything 
unclean. Next follow the Doma, who play on the lute and sing. The 
still lower classes practise as a trade killing and the inflicting of 

Different occupations of 
the castes and guilds 

The Castes, Called “Colours” (Varna) 


judicial punishments. The worst of all are the Badhatau, who not 
only devour the flesh of dead animals, but even of dogs and other 

Each of the four castes, when eating together, must form a group 
for themselves, one group not being allowed to comprise two men of 

different castes. If, further, in the group 
Customs of the Brahmins of the Brahmana there are two men who 

live at' enmity with each other, and the 
seat of the one is by the side of the other, they make a barrier 
between the two seats by placing a board between them, or by 
spreading a piece of dress, or in some other way; and if there is only 
a line drawn between them, they are considered as separated. Since 
it is forbidden to eat the remains of a meal, every single man must 
have his own food for himself; for if any one of the party who are 
eating should take of the food from one and the same plate, that 
which remains in the plate becomes, after the first eater has taken 
part, to him who waints to take as the second, the remains of the meal, 
and such is forbidden. 

Such is the condition of the four castes. 

... Hindus differ among themselves as to which of these castes is 
capable of attaining to liberation; for, according to some, only the 

Brahmana and Kshatriya are capable of 
it, since the others cannot learn the 
Veda, whilst according to the Hindu 
philosophers, liberation is common to all* castes and to the whole 
human race, if their intention of obtaining it is perfect. This veiw is 
based on the saying of Vyasa: “Learn to know the twenty-five things 
thoroughly. Then you may follow whatever religion you like; you 
will no doubt be liberated.” This view is also based on the fact that 
Vasudeva was a descendant of a Sudra family, and also on the 
following saying of his, which he addressed to Aijuna: “God 
distributes recompense without injustice and without partiality. He 
reckons the good as bad if people in doing good forget Him; he 
reckons the bad as good if people in doing bad remember Him and 
do not forget Him, whether those people be Vaisya or Sudra or 
women. How much more will this be the case when they are 
Brahmana or Kshatriya.” 

Moksha and the various 


On The Source Of Their Religious And Civil 
Law, On Prophets, And On The Question 
Whether Single Laws Can Be Abrogated Or Not 

The ancient Greeks received their religious and civil laws from sages 
among them who were called to the work, and of whom their country¬ 
men believed that they received divine 
help, like Solon, Draco, Pythagoras, 
Minos, and others. Also their kings did 
the same; for Mianos (sic), when ruling 
over the islands of the sea and over the Cretans about two hundred 
years after Moses, gave them laws, pretending to have received them 
from Zeus. About the same time also Minos (sic) gave his laws 
Such was the case with the Greeks, and it is precisely the same with 
the Hindus. For they believe that their religious law and its single 

The Rishis. the authors *?*!***“ ^ ^ ^ 

of Hindu law their sages, the pillars of their religion, 

and not from the prophet, i.e. Narayana, 
who, when coming into this world, appears in some human figure. But 
he only comes in order to cut away some evil matter which threatens 
the world, or to set the world light again when anything has gone 
wrong. Further, no law can be exchanged or replaced by another, for 

Law and religion among 
I he Greeks founded by 
their sages 


The Source of Their Religibus and Civil Law 

they use the laws simply as they find them. Therefore they can 
dispense with prophets, as far as law and worship are concerned, 
though in other affairs of the creation they sometimes want them. 

As for the question of the abrogation of laws, it seems that this is 
not impossible with the Hindus, for they say that many things which 

are now forbidden were allowed before 
Whether laws may be the coming of Vasudeva, e.g. the flesh of 

cows. Such changes are necessitated by 
the change of the nature of man, and by their being too feeble to bear 
the whole burden of their duties. To these changes also belong the 
changes of the matrimonial system and of the theory of descent For in 
former times there were three modes of determining descent or 

1. The child bom to a man by his legi- 
Different matrimonial timate wife is the child of the father, as is 

the custom with us and with the Hindus. 

2. If man marries a.woman and has a child by her; if, further, the 
marriage-contract stipulates that the children of the woman will 
belong to her father, the child is considered as the child of its grand¬ 
father who made that stipulation, and not as the child of its father who 

engendered it. 

3. If a stranger has a child by a married woman, the child belongs to 
her husband, since the wife being, as it were, the soil in which the child 
has grown, is the property of the husband, always presupposing that 
the sowing, i.e. the cohabitation, takes place with his consent. 

... All these customs have now been abolished and abrogated, and 
therefore we may infer from their tradition that in principle the 
abrogation of a law is allowable. 

As regards unnatural kinds of marriage, we must state that such 
exist still in our time, as they also existed in the times of Arab heathen- 

Various kinds of marriage 
with Tibetans and Arabs 

dom; for the people inhabiting the 
mountains stretching from the region of 
Panchir into the neighbourhood of 
Kashmir live under the rule that several brothers have one wife in 
common. Among the heathen Arabs, too, marriage was of different 


1. An Arab ordered his wife to be sent to a certain man to demand 
sexual intercourse with him; then he abstained from her during the 
whole time of her pregnancy, since he wished to have from her a 
generous offspring. This is identical with the third kind of marriage 


India by Al-Biruni 

among the Hindus. 

2. A second kind was this, that the one Arab said to the other, 
“Cede me your wife, and I will cede you mine,” and thus they 
exchanged their wives. 

3. A third kind is this, that several men cohabited with one wife. 
When, then, she gave birth to a child, she declared who was the father; 
and if she did not know it, the fortune-tellers had to know it. 

4. The Nikah-elmakt (= matrimonium exosum), i.e. when a man 
married the widow of his father or of his son, the child of such a 
marriage was called daizan. This is nearly the same as a certain Jewish 
marriage, for the Jews have the law that a man must marry the widow 
of his brother, if the latter has not left children, and create a line of 
descent for his deceased brother; and the offspring is considered as 
that of the deceased man, not as that of the real father. Thereby they 
want to prevent his memory dying out in the world. In Hebrew they 
call a man who is married in this way Yabharn. 

[A similar institution among the Magians is referred to. 
Pp. 109-110.] 

We have here given an account of these things in order that the 
reader may learn by the comparative treatment of the subject how 
much superior the institutions of Islam are, and how much more 
plainly this contrast brings out all customs and usages, differing from 
those of Islam, in their essential foulness. 


About The Beginning Of Idol-Worship, And 
A Description Of The Individual Idols 

It is well known that the popular mind leans towards the sensible 
world, and has an aversion to the world of abstract thought which 

is only understood by highly educated 
Origin of idol-worship people, of whom in every time and 

m the nature of man every place there are only few. And as 

common people will only acquiesce in pictorial representations, 
many of the leaders of religious communities have so far deviated 
from the right path as to give such imagery in their books and houses 
of worship, like the Jews and Christians, and, more than all, the 
Manichaeans. These words of mine would at once receive a 
sufficient illustration if, for example, a picture of the Prophet were 
made, or of Mekka and the Ka‘ba, and were shown to an unedu¬ 
cated man or woman. Their joy in looking at the thing would bring 
them to kiss the picture, to rub their cheeks against it, and to roll 
themselves in the dust before it, as if they were seeing not the picture, 
but the original, and were in this way, as if they were present in the 
holy places, performing the rites of pilgrimage, the great and the 
small ones. 

This is the cause which leads to the manufacture of idols, 


India by Al-Biruni 

monuments in honour of certain much venerated persons, prophets, 
sages, angels, destined to keep alive their memory when they are 
absent or dead, to create for them a lasting place of grateful 
veneration in the hearts of men when they die. But when much time 
passes by after the setting up of the monument, generations and 
centuries, its origin is forgotten, it becomes a matter of custom, and 
its veneration a rule for general practice. This being deeply rooted in 
the nature of man, the legislators of antiquity tried to influence them 
from this weak point of theirs. Therefore they made the veneration of 
pictures and similar monuments obligatory on them, as is recounted 
in historic records, both for the times before and after the Deluge. 
Some people even pretend to know that all mankind, before God 
sent them his prophets, were one large idolatrous body ... 

Since, however, here we have to explain the system and the 
theories of the Hindus on the subject, we shall now mention their 
TJ , ,, . ludicrous views; but we declare at once 

to the low classes of people that they are held only by the common 

uneducated people. For those who 
march on the path to liberation, or those who study philosophy and 
theology, and who desire abstract truth which they call sara, are 
entirely free from worshipping anything but God alone, and would 
never dream of worshipping an image manufactured to represent 

[There follows the story of King Ambrisha who after a successful 
reign had taken exclusively to meditation and worship. Thereupon 
Indra appeared before him and, in answer to a question by 
Ambrisha, instructed him that if he was ‘ever overpowered by 
human forgetfulness’ he should make for himself an image like that 
in which Indra had appeared before him and offer to it perfume and 
flower. Thus he would always remember him’. Pp. 113-15.) 

... From that time, the Hindus say, people make idols, some with 
four hands like the appearance we have described, others with two 
hands, as the story and description require, and conformably to the 
being which is to be represented. 

... A famous idol of theirs was that of Multan, dedicated to the 
sun, and therefore called Adilya. It was of wood and covered with red 

Cordovan leather; in its two eyes were 
two red rubies. It is said to have been 
made in the last Kritayuga. Suppose 
that it was made in the very end of Kritayuga, the time which has 

The idol of Multan called 

The Beginning of Idol Worship 


since elapsed amounts to 216,432 years. When Muhammad Ibn 
Alkasim Ibn Almunabbih conquered Multan, he inquired how the 
town had become so very flourishing and so many treasures had 
there been accumulated, and then he found out that this idol was the 
cause, for there came pilgrims from all sides to visit it. Therefore, he 
thought it best to have the idol where it was, but he hung a piece of 
cow’s flesh on its neck by way of mockery. On the same place a 
mosque was built. When then the Karmatians 14 occupied Multan, 
Jalam Ibn Shaiban, the usurper, broke the idol into pieces and killed 
its priests. He made his mansion, which was a castle built of brick on 
an elevated place, the mosque instead of the old mosque, which he 
ordered to be shut from hatred against anything that had been done 
under the dynasty of the Caliphs of the house of‘Umayya. When 
afterwards the blessed Prince Mahmud swept away their rule from 
those countries, he made again the old mosque the place of the 
Friday-worship, and the second one was left to decay. At present it 
is only a barn-floor, where bunches of Hinna (Lawsonia inermis) are 

bound together... . ., , 

The city of Taneshar is highly venerated by the Hindus. The idol 
of that place is called Cakrasvamin, i.e. the owner of the cakra, a 

weapon ... It is of bronze, and is nearly 
The idol of Taneshar th e s j ze c f a man . It is now lying in the 

celled Cakrasvamin hippodrome in Ghazna, together with 

the Lord of Somanath which is a representation of the penis of 
Mahadeva, called Linga. Of Somanath we shall hereafter speak in the 
proper place. This Cakrasvamin is said to have been made in the 
time of Bharata as a memorial of wars connected with this name. 

In Inner Kashmir, about two or three days’ journey from the 

capital in the direction towards the 
The idol Sarada in Kashmir mountains of Bolor, there is a wooden 

idol called Sarada, which is much 

venerated and frequented by pilgrims. 

We shall now communicate a whole chapter from the book 

Samhita relating to the construction of 
idols, which will help the student tho¬ 
roughly to comprehend the present 

Varahamihira 15 says: “If the figure is made to represent Rama the 
son of Dasaratha, or Bali the son of Virocana, give it the height of 
120 digits,” i.e. of idol digits, which must be reduced by one-tenth to 

Quotation from the Samhita 
of Varahamihira 


India by Al-Biruni 

become common digits, in this case 108. 

“To the idol of Vishnu give eight hands, or four, or two, and on the 
left side under the breast give him the figure of the woman Sri. If you 
give him eight hands, place in the right hands a sword, a club of gold 
or iron, an arrow, and make the fourth hand as if it were drawing 
water; in the left hands give him a shield, a bow, a cakra, and a conch. 

If you give him two hands, let the right hand be drawing water, 
the left holding a conch. 

“If the figure is to represent Baladeva, the brother of Narayana, 
put earrings into his ears, and give him eyes of a drunken man. 

“If you make both figures, Narayana and Baladeva, join with 
them their sister Bhagavati (Durga = Ekanansa), her left hand resting 
on her hip a little away from the side, and her right hand holding a 

“If you make her four-handed, place in the right hands a rosary 
and a hand drawing water; in the left hands, a book and a lotus. 

“If you make her eight-handed, place in the left hands the 
kamandalu, i.e. a pot, a lotus, bow and book; in the right hands, a 
rosary, a mirror, an arrow, and a water-drawing hand ... 

“The idol of Brahman has four faces towards the four sides, and is 
seated on a lotus. 

The idol of Skanda, the son of Mahadeva, is a boy riding on a 
peacock, his hands holding a sakti, a weapon like a double-edged 
sword, which has in the middle a pestle like that of a mortar. 

“The idol Indra holds in its hand a weapon called vajra of 
diamond. It has a similar handle to the sakti, but on each side it has 
two swords which join at the handle. On his front place a third eye 
and make him ride on a white elephant with four tusks. 

Likewise make on the front of the idol of Mahadeva a third eye 
right*above, on his head a crescent, in his hand a weapon called sula, 
similar to the club but with three branches, and a sword; and let his 
left hand hold his wife Gauri, the daughter of Himavant, whom he 
presses to his bosom from the side.” 

“To the idol Jina, Le. Buddha, give a face and limbs as beautiful as 
possible, make the lines in the palms of his hands and feet like a 
lotus, and represent him seated on a lotus; give him grey hair, and 
represent him with a placid expression, as if he were the father of 
creation ... 

“The idol of Kubera, the teasurer, wears a crown, has a big 
stomach and wide hips, and is riding on a man. 

The Beginning of Idol Worship 


“The idol of the sun has a red face like the pith of the red lotus, 
beams like a diamond, has protruding limbs, rings in the ears, the 
neck adorned with pearls which hang down over the breast, wears a 
crown of several compartments, holds in his hands two lotuses, and 
is clad in the dress of the Northerners which reaches down to the 

“If you represent the Seven Mothers, represent several of them 
together in one figure, Brahmani with four faces towards the four 
directions, Kaumari with six faces, Vaishnavi with four hands, 
Varahi with a hog’s head on a human body, Indrani with many eyes 
and a club in her hand, Bhagavati (Durga) sitting as people generally 
sit, Camunda ugly, with protruding teeth and a slim waist. Further 
join with them the sons of Mahadeva, Kshetrapala with bristling 
hair, a sour face, and an ugly figure, but Vinayaka with an elephant’s 
head on a human body, with four hands, as we have heretofore 

The worshippers of these idols kill sheep and buffaloes with axes 
(kutara), that they may nourish themselves with their blood. All idols 
are constructed according to certain measures determined by idol- 
fingers for every single limb, but sometimes they differ regarding the 
measure of a limb. If the artist keeps the right measure and does not 
make anything too large nor too small, he is free from sin, and is sure 
that the being which he represented will not visit him with any 

.. . The Hindus honour their idols on account of those who 
erected them, not on account of the material of which they are made. 
We have already mentioned that the idol of Multan was of wood, e.g. 
the linga which Rama erected when he had finished the war with the 
demons was of sand, which he had heaped up with his own hand. But 
then it became pertified all at once, since the astrologically correct 
moment for the erecting of the monument fell before the moment 
when the workmen had finished the cutting of the stone monument 
which Rama originally had ordered. Regarding the building of the 
temple and its peristyle, the cutting of the trees of four different 
kinds, the astrological determination of the favourable moment for 
the erection, the celebration of the rites due on such an occasion, 
regarding all this Rama gave very long and tedious instructions. 
Further, he ordered that servants and priests to minister to the idols 
should be nominated from different classes of the people. “To the 
idol of Vishnu are devoted the class called Bhagavata; to the idol of 


India by Al-Biruni 

showing that God is not to be 
confounded with the idols 

the Sun, the Maga, i.e. the Magians; to the idol of Mahadeva, a class 
of saints, anchorites with long hair, who cover their skin with ashes, 
hang on their persons the bones of dead people, and swim in the 
pools. The Brahmana are devoted to the Eight Mothers, the 
Shamanians, to Buddha, to Arhant the class called Nagna. On the 
whole, to each idol certain people are devoted who constructed it, for 
those know best how to serve it.” 

Our object in mentioning all this mad raving was to teach the 
reader the accurate description of an idol, if he happens to see one 

and to illustrate what we have said 
Quotations from the Gita before, that such idols are erected only 

for uneducated low-class people of little 
understanding; that the Hindus never 
made an idol of any supernatural being, much less of God; and. 
lastly, to show how the crowd is kept in thraldom by all kinds of 
priestly tricks and deceits. 

[An extract from the Gita is quoted to show that God is not to be 
confounded with the idols. Pp. 122-24.] 

... It is evident that the first cause of idolatry was the desire of 
commemorating the dead and of consoling the living; but on this basis 
it has developed, and has finally become a foul and pernicious abuse. 

The former view, that idols are only memorials, was also held by 
the Caliph Muawiya regarding the idols of Sicily. When, in the 
summer of A.H. 53, Sicily was conquered, and the conquerors sent 
him golden idols adorned with crowns and diamonds which had been 
captured there, he ordered them to be sent to Sind, that they should 
be sold there to the princes of the country; for he thought it best to 
sell them as objects costing sums of so-and-so many denars, not 
having the slightest scruple on account of their being objects of 
abominable idolatry, but simply considering the matter from a 
political, not from a religious point of view. 


On The Veda, The Puranas, And Other Kinds 
Of Their National Literature 

Veda means knowledge of that which was before unknown. It is a 
religious system which, according to the Hindus, comes from God, 
„ , , . and was promulgated by the mouth of 

to the Veda Brahman. The Brahmins recite the 

Veda without understanding its mean¬ 
ing and in the same way they learn it by heart, the one receiving it 
from the other. Only few of them learn its explantation, and still less 
is the number of those who master the contents of the Veda and their 
interpretation to such a degree as to be able to hold a theological 

The Brahmins teach the Veda to the Kshatriyas. The latter learn 
it, but are not allowed to teach it, not even to a Brahmin. The Vaisya 
and Sudra are not allowed to hear it, much less to pronounce and 
recite it. If such a thing can be proved against one of them, the 
Brahmins drag him before the magistrate, and he is punished by 
having his tongue cut off. 

The Veda contains commandments and prohibitions, detailed 
statements about reward and punishment intended to encourage and 
to deter; but most of it contains hymns of praise, and treats of the 


India by Al-Biruni 

various kinds of sacrifices to the fire, which are so numerous and 
difficult that you could hardly count them. 

They do not allow the Veda to be committed to writing, because it 
is recited according to certain modulations, and they therefore avoid 

the use of the pen, since it is liable to 
cause some error, and may occasion an 
addition or a defect in the written text. 

The Veda transmitted 
by memory 

In consequence it has happened that they have several times 

forgotten the Veda and lost it ... 

Further, the Hindus maintain that the Veda, together with all the 

rites of their religion and country, had been obliterated in the last 

Dvapara yuga, a period of time of which we shall speak at the proper 

place, until it was renewed by Vyasa, the son of Parasara ... 

This is the reason why, not long before our time, Vasukra, a native 

of Kashmir, a famous Brahmin, has of his own account undertaken 

the task of explaining the Veda and 

Vasukra commits the Veda committing it to writing. 16 He has taken 
to writing # , 

on himself a task from which everybody 

else would have recoiled, but he earned it out because he was afraid 
that the Veda might be forgotten and entirely vanish out of the 
memories of men, since he observed that the characters of men grew 
worse and worse, and that they did not care much for virtue, nor 
even for duty. 

There are certain passages in the Veda which, as they maintain, 
must not be recited within dwellings, since they fear that they would 
cause an abortion both to women and the cattle. Therefore, they step 
out into the open field to recite them there. There is hardly a single 
verse free from such and similar minatory injunctions. 

As we have already mentioned, the books of the Hindus are 
metrical compositions like the Rajaz poems of the Arabs. Most of 
them are composed in a metre called sloka. The reason of this has 
already been explained ... 

The Veda, however, is not composed in this common metre, sloka, 
but in another. Some Hindus say that no one could compose 
anything in the same metre. However, their scholars maintain that 
this is possible indeed, but that they refrain from trying it merely 
from veneration for the Veda. 

The four pupils of Vyasa 
and the four Vedas 

According to their tradition, Vyasa 
divided it into four parts: Rigveda, Yajur- 
veda, Samaveda, and Atharvanaveda . .. 

The Vedas, the Puranas and other National Literature 


Each of the four parts has a peculiar kind of recitation. The first is 
Rigveda, consisting of metrical compositions called ric, which are of 

different lengths. It is called Rigveda as 
On the Rigveda being the totality of the ric. It treats of the 

sacrifices to the fire, and is recited in 
three different ways. First, in a uniform manner of reading, just as 
every other book is read. Secondly, in such a way that a pause is 
made after every single word. Thirdly, in a method which is the most 
meritorious, and for which plenty of reward in heaven is promised. 
First you read a short passage, each word of which is distinctly 
pronounced; then you repeat it together with a part of that which 
has not yet been recited. Next you recite the added portion alone, 
and then you repeat it together with the next part of that which has 
not yet been recited, etc., etc. Continuing to do so till the end, you will 
have read the whole text twice. 

The Yajurveda is composed of kandin The word is a derivative 
noun, and means the totality of the kandin. The difference between this 

and the Rigveda is that it may be read 
On the Yajurveda as a text connected by the rules of 

Samdhi, which is not allowed in the 
case of Rigveda. The one as well as the other treats of works 
connected with the fire and the sacrifices. 

.. . The Samaveda treats of the sacrifices, commandments and 
prohibitions. It is recited in a tone like a chant, and hence its name 

Samaveda and Atha^anaveda * deriVed , Realise saman means the 

sweetness of recitation 

... The Atharvanaveda is as a text connected by the rules of 
Samdhi. It does not consist of the same compositions as the Rig and 
Yajur Vedas, but of a third kind called bhara. It is recited according to 
a melody with a nasal tone. This Veda is less in favour with the 
Hindus than the others. It likewise treats of the sacrifices to the fire, 
and contains injunctions regarding the dead and what is to be done 
with them. 

As to the Puranas, we first mention that the word means first, 
eternal. There are eighteen Puranas, most of them called by the 

names of animals, human or angelic 
List of the Puranas beings, because they contain stories 

about them, or because the contents of 
the book refer in some way to them, or because the book consists of 
answers which the creature whose name forms the title of the book 


India by Al-Biruni 

has given to certain questions. 

The Puranas 16A are of human origin, composed by the so-called 
Rishis. In the following I give a list of their names, as I have heard 
them, and committed them to writing from dictation:— 

1. Adi-purana, i.e. the first. 

2. Matsya-purana, i.e. the fish. 

3. Kurma-purana, i.e. the tortoise. 

4. Varaha-purana, i.e. the boar. 

5. Narasimha-purana, i.e. a human being with a lion’s head. 

6. Vamana-purana, i.e. the dwarf. 

7. Vayu-purana, i.e. the wind. 

8. Nanda-purana, i.e. servant of Mahadeva. 

9. Skanda-purana, i.e. a son of Mahadeva. 

10. Aditya-purana, i.e. the sun. 

11. Soma-purana, i.e. the moon. 

12. Samba-purarM, i.e. the son of Vishnu. 

13. Brahmanda-purana, i.e. heaven. 

14. Markandeya-purana , i.e. a great Rishi. 

15. Tarkshya-purana, i.e. the bird Garuda. 

16. Vishnu-purana, i.e. Narayana. 

17. Brahma-purana, i.e. the nature charged with the preservation of 
the world. 

18. Bhavishya-purana, i.e. future things. 

Of all this literature I have only seen portions of the Matsya, 
Aditya, and Vayu Puranas.... 

The book Smriti 17 is derived from the Veda. It contains command¬ 
ments and prohibitions, and is compos- 
A list of Smriti books e( j by t h e following twenty sons of 


1. Apastamba, 2. Parasara, 3. Satatapa, 4. Samvarta, 5. Daksha, 
6. Vasishtha, 7. Angiras, 8. Yama, 9. Vishnu, 10. Manu, 11. Yajna- 
valkya, 12. Atri, 13. Harita, 14. Likhita, 15. Sankha, 16. Gautama, 
17. Vrihaspati, 18. Katyayana, 19. Vyasa, 20. Usanas. 

Besides, the Hindus have books about the jurisprudence of their 
religion, on theosophy, on ascetics, on the process of becoming god 
and seeking liberation from the world, as, e.g. the book composed by 
Gauda the anchorite, l7A which goes by his name; the book Samkhya, 
composed by Kapila, on divine subjects; the book of Patanjali, on 
the search for liberation and for the union of the soul with the object 
of its meditation; the book Nyayabhasha 18 composed by Kapila on 


The Vedas, the Puranas and other National Literature 


the Veda and its interpretation, also showing that it has been created 
and distinguishing within the Veda between such injunctions as are 
obligatory in certain cases, and those which are obligatory in general; 
further, the book Mimamsa ,9 , composed by Jaimini, on the same 
subject; the book Laukayata , 20 composed by Brihaspati, treating of 
the subject that in all investigations we must exclusively rely upon 
the apperception of the senses; the book Agastyarnata 20A composed 
by Agastya, treating of the subject that in all investigations we must 
use the apperception of the senses as well as tradition; and the book 
Vishnu dhmma . The word dharma means reward, but in general it 
is used for religion; so that this title means The Religion of God, which 
in this case is understood to be Narayana. Further, there are the 
books of the six pupils of Vyasa, viz. Devala, Sukra, Bhargava, 
Vrihaspati, Yagnavalkya, and Manu. The Hindus have numerous 
books about all the branches of science. How could anybody know 
the titles of all of them, more especially if he is not a Hindu, but 
a foreigner? 

Besides, they have a book which they hold in such veneration that 
they firmly assert that everything which occurs in other books is 

found also in this book, but not all 
Mahabharata which occurs in this book is found in 

other books. It is called Bharata, and 
composed by Vyasa the son of Parasara at the time of the great war 
between the children of Pandu and those of Kuru. The title itself gives 
an indication of those times. The book has 100,000 slokas in 
eighteen parts, each of which is called Parvan. Here we give the list of 

1. Sabha-parva, i.e. the king’s dwelling. 

2. Aranya, i.e. going out into the open field, meaning the exodus 
of the children of Pandu. 

3. Virata, i.e. the name of a king in whose realm they dwelt 
during the time of their concealment. 

4. Udyoga, i.e. the preparing for battle. 

5. Bhishma. 

6. Drona, the Brahmin. 

7. Kama, the son of the Sun. 

8. Salya, the brother of Duryodhana, some of the greatest heroes 
who did the fighting, one always coming forward after his 
predecessor had been killed. 

9. Gada, i.e. the club. 


India by Al-Biruni 

10. Sauptika, i.e. the killing of the jsleepers, when Asvatthaman 
the son of Drona attacked the city of Pancala during the night 
and killed the inhabitants. 

11. Jalapradanika, i.e. the successive drawing of water for the 
dead, after people have washed off the impurity caused by the 
touching of the dead. 

12. Stri, i.e. the lamentations of the women. 

13. Santi, containing 24,000 slokas on eradicating haired from 
the heart, in four parts: 

(1) Rajadharma, on the reward of the kings. 

(2) Danadharma, on the reward for alms-giving. 

(3) Apaddharma, on the reward of those who are in need and 

(4) Mokshadharma, on the reward of him who is liberated from 
the world. 

14. Asvamedha, i.e. the sacrifice of the horse which is sent 
out together with an army to wander through the world. Then 
they proclaim in public that it belongs to the king of the world, 
and that he who does not agree thereto is to come forward to 
fight. The Brahmans follow the horse, and celebrate 
sacrifices to the fire in those places where the horse drops its 

15. Mausala, i.e. the fighting of the Yadavas, the tribe of 
Vasudeva, among themselves. 

16. Asramavasa, i.e. leaving one’s own country. 

17. Prasthana, i.e. quitting the realm to seek liberation. 

18. Svargarohana, i.e. journeying towards Paradise. 

These eighteen parts are followed by another one which is called 
Harivamsa-Parvan, which contains the traditions relating to Vasudeva. 

In this book there occur passages which, like riddles, admit of 
manifold interpretations. As to the reason of this the Hindus relate 
the following story:—Vyasa asked Brahman to procure him 
somebody who might write for him the Bharata from his dictation. 
Now he entrusted with this task his son Vinayaka, who is represent¬ 
ed as an idol with an elephant’s head, and made it obligatory on him 
never to cease from writing. At the same time Vyasa made it 
obligatory on him to write only that which he understood. Therefore 
Vyasa, in the course of his dictation, dictated such sentences as 
compelled the writer to ponder over them, and thereby Vyasa gained 
time for resting awhile. 


Their Grammatical And Metrical Literature 

The two sciences of grammar and metrics are auxiliary to the other 
sciences. Of the two, the former, grammar, holds the first place in 

their estimate, called vyakarana, i.e. the 
List of books on grammar law of the correctness of their speech 

and etymological rules, by means of 
which they acquire and eloquent and classical style both in writing 
and reading. We Muslims cannot learn anything of it, since it is a 
branch coming from a root which is not within our grasp—I mean the 
language itself. That which I have been told as to titles of books on 
this science is the following:— 

1. Aindra, attributed to Indra, the head of the angels. 

2. Candra, composed by Candra, one of the red-robe-wearing sect, 
the followers of Buddha. 

3. Sakata , so called by the name of its author. His tribe, too, is 
called by a name derived from the same word, viz. Sakatayana. 

4. Panini 21 , so called from its author. 

5. Katantra, composed by Sarvavarman. 

6. Sasidevavritti , composed by Sasideva. 

7. Durgavivritti. 

8. Sishyahitavritti, comppsed by Ugrabhuti. 


India by Al-Biruni 

I have been told that the last-mentioned author was the teacher 
and instructor of Shah Anandapala, the son of Jayapala, who ruled 

in our time. After having composed the 
book he sent it to Kashmir, but the 
people there did not adopt it, being in 

Shah Anandapala and 
his master Ugrabhuti 

such things haughtily conservative. Now he complained of this to the 
Shah, and the Shah, in accordance with the duty of a pupil towards 
his master, promised him to make him attain his wish. So he gave 
orders to send 200,000 dirham and presents of a similar value to 
Kashmir, to be distributed among those who studied the book of his 
master. The consequence was that they all rushed upon the book, 
and would not copy any otner grammar but this one, showing 
themselves in the baseness of their avarice. The book became the 
fashion and highly prized. 

Of the origin of grammar they give the following account:—One of 

their kings, called Samalvahana, i.e. in the classical language, 

_ , , . , Satavahana, was one day in a pond 

Tale relating to the . . ..... . , , ., 

origin of grammar playing with his wives, when he said to 

one of them “Maudakam dehi,” i.e. do not 

sprinkle the water on me. The woman, however, understood it as if he 
had said modakam dehi , i.e. bring sweetmeats. So she went away and 
brought him sweetmeats. And when the king disapproved of her 
doing so, she gave him an angry reply, and used coarse language 
towards him. Now he was deeply offended, and, in consequence, as 
is their custom, he abstained from all food, and concealed himself in 
some comer until he was called upon by a sage, who consoled him, 
promising him that he would teach people grammar and the 
inflexions of the language. Thereupon the sage went off to 
Mahadeva, praying, praising, and fasting devoutly. Mahadeva 
appeared to him, and communicated to him some few rules, the like 
of which Abul’aswad Addu’ali 22 has given for the Arabic language. 
The god also promised to assist him in further development of this 
science. Then the sage returned to the king and taught it to him. This 
was the beginning of the science of grammar. 

Grammar is followed by another science, called chandas, i.e. the 
metrical form of poetry, corresponding to our metrics—a science 

The predilection of the 
Hindus for metrical 

indispensable to them, since all their 
books are in verse. By composing their 
books in metres they intend to facilitate 
their being learned by heart, and to 

Grammatical and Metrical Literature 


prevent people in all questions of science ever recurring to a written 
text, save in a case of bare necessity. For they think that the mind of 
man sympathises with everything in which there is symmetry and 
order, and has an aversion to everything in which there is no order. 
Therefore, most Hindus are passionately fond of their verses, and 
always desirous of reciting them, even if they do not understand the 
meaning of the words, and the audience will snap their fingers in 
token of joy and applause. They do not want prose compositions, 
although it is much easier to understand them. 

Most of their books are composed in sloka, in which I am now 
exercising myself, being occupied in composing for the Hindus a 
translation of the books of Euclid and of the Almagest, and dictating 
to them a treatise on the construction of the astrolabe, being simply 
guided herein by the desire of spreading science. If the Hindus happen 
to get some book which does not yet exist among them, they set at 
work to change it into Slokas, which are rather unintelligible, since the 
metrical form entails a constrained, affected style, which will 
become apparent when we shall speak of their method of expressing 
numbers. And if the verses are not sufficiently affected, their authors 
meet with frowning faces, as having committed something like mere 
prose, and then they will feel extremely unhappy. God will do me 
justice in what I say of them. 

The first who invented this art were Pingala and (? CLT). 

The books on the subject are numerous. The most famous of them is 

is the book Gaisita (? G—AI—S—T), so 
Books on metrics called from its author, famous to such a 

degree that even the whole science of 
metrics has been called by this name. Other books are that of Mriga- 
lanchana, that of Pingala, and that of (? U (Au)—L—Y— 

A—N—D). I, however, have not seen any of these books, nor do I 
know much of the chapter of the Brahma-siddhanta which treats of 
metrical calculations, and therefore I have no claim to a thorough 
knowledge of the laws of their metrics. Nevertheless, I do not think it 
right to pass by a subject of which I have only a smattering, and I 
shall not postpone speaking of it until I shall have thoroughly 
mastered it. 

In counting the syllables (ganachandas ) they use similar figures to 
those used by Alkhalil Ibn Ahmad and our metricians to denote the 

consonant without vowel and the consonant with vowel, viz. these two 
signs, and >, the former of which is called laghu, i.e. light; the 


India by Al-Biruni 

On the meaning of the tech¬ 
nical terms laghu and guru 

latter, gum, i.e. heavy. In measuring 
(matrachandas ), the gum is reckoned 
double of a laghu, and its place may be 

tilled by two laghu. 

Further, they have a syllable which they call long ( dirgha ), the 
measure or prosody of which is equal to that of di guru. This, I think, 
is a syllable with a long vowel (like ka, ki, ku). Here, however, I must 
confess that up to the present moment I have not been able to gain a 
clear idea of the nature of both laghu and guru , so as to be able to 
illustrate them by similar elements in Arabic. However, I am 
inclined to think that laghu does not mean a consonant without vowel, 
nor guru a consonant with vowel, but that, on the contrary, laghu means 
a consonant with a short vowel (e.g. ka, ki, ku ), and gum means the 
same with a vowelless consonant (e.g. kat, kit, kut ), like an element in 
Arabic metrics called Sahab (i.e.—or w, a long syllable the place of 
which may be taken by two short ones). That which makes me doubt 
as to the first-mentioned definition of laghu is this circumstance, that 
the Hindus use many laghu one after the other in an uninterrupted 
succession. The Arabs are not capable of pronouncing two 
vowelless consonants one after the other, but in other languages this 
is possible. 

.. . Further, although it is difficult to pronounce a vowelless 
consonant at the beginning of a word, most nouns of the Hindus 
begin, if not exactly with vowelless consonants, still with such 
consonants as have only a Schwa-like vowel-sound to follow 
them. If such a consonant stands at the beginning of a verse, they 
drop it in counting, since the law of the guru demands that in it the 
vowelless consonant shall not precede but follow the vowel ( ka-t, ki-t, 


Further, as our people have composed out of the feet 
certain schemes or types, according to which verses are constructed, 

and have invented signs to denote the 
Definition of matra component parts of a foot, i.e. the 

consonant with and without a vowel, in 
like manner also the Hindus use certain names to denote the feet 
which are composed of laghu and guru, either the former preceding 
and the latter following or vice versa, in such a way, however, that the 
measure must always be the same, whilst the number of syllables may 
vary. By these names they denote a certain conventional prosodic 
unity (i.e. certain feet). By measure , I mean that laghu is reckoned = 

Grammatical and Metrical Literature 


one matra, i.e. measure, and guru = two matra. If they represent a foot 
in writing, they only express the measure of the syllables, not their 
number, as, e.g. (in Arabic) a double consonant (kka) is counted as a 
consonant without vowel plus a consonant with vowel, and a 
consonant followed by Tanwin ( kun ) is counted as a consonant with 
a vowel plus a consonant without vowel, whilst in writing both are 
represented as one and the same thing (i.e. by the sign of the 
consonant in question). 

Taken alone by themselves, laghu and guru are called by various 
names: the former, la, kali, rupa, camara, andgra/wz; the latter, ga mvra, 

and a half amsaka. The latter name 
Names of laghu and guru shows that a complete amsaka is equal 

to two guru or their equivalent. These 
names they have invented simply to facilitate the versification of 
their metrical books. For this purpose they have invented so many 
names that one may fit into the metre if others will not. 

[Al-Biruni describes a single foot, and quotes a lexicographical 
work by Haribhatta on the arrangement of the feet. Pp. 140-42.] 

As the Arabic verse is divided into two halves or hemistichs by the 
arud, i.e. the last foot of the first hemistich, and the darh, i.e. the last 

foot of the second hemistich, in like 
On the padas manner the verses of the Hindus are 

divided into two halves, each of which 

is called foot ( pada) ... 

The verse is divided into three, or more commonly into four pada. 
Sometimes they add a fifth pada in the middle of the verse. The padas 

have no rhyme, but there is a kind of 
On the metre Arya metre, in which the 1 and 2 padas end 

with the same consonant or syllable as 
if rhyming on it, and also the padas 3 and 4 end with the same 
consonant or syllable. This kind is called A rya. At the end of the pada 
a laghu may become di guru, though in general this metre ends with a 
laghu . 

The different poetical works of the Hindus contain a great number 
of metres. In the metre of 5 padas, the fifth pada is placed between 
padas 3 and 4. The names of the metres differ according to the number 
of syllables, and also according to the verses which follow. For they 
do not like all the verses of a long poem to belong to one and the 
same metre. They use many metres in the same poem, in order that it 
should appear like an embroidered piece of silk. 


India by Al-Biruni 

[The difference between the Arab and Hindu method of the 
lotation of a pada is given. P. 144.] 

I have already once pleaded as my excuse, and do so here a 
second time, that my slender knowledge of this science does not 
enable me to give the reader a complete insight into the subject. Still 
I take the greatest pains with it, though I am well aware that it is only 
very little I can give. 

The name Vritta applies to each four -pada metre in which the signs 
of both the prosody and the number of the syllables are like each 

other, according to a certain corres- 
On the metre Vritta pondence of the padas among them¬ 

selves, so that if you know one pada, you 
know also the other ones, for they are like it. Further, there is a law 
that a pada cannot have less than four syllables, since a pada with less 
does not occur in the Veda. For the same reason the smallest number 
of the syllables of a pada is four, the largest twenty-six. In con¬ 
sequence, there are twenty-three varieties of the Vritta metre, 
which we shall here enumerate:— 

[The consequential twenty-three varieties of the Vritta metre are 
enumerated. Pp. 145-46.] 

... If we here take so much trouble with Indian metrics, we do it 
for the purpose of fixing the laws of the■ Sloka, since most of their 
books are composed in it. 

The Sloka belongs to the ionr-pada metres. Each pada has eight 
syllables, which are different in all four padas. The last syllable of 

each of the four padas must be the same. 
Theory of the sloka viz. a guru. Further, the fifth syllable in 

each pada must always be laghu, the sixth 
syllable guru. The seventh syllable must be laghu in the second and 
fourth padas, guru in the first and third padas. The other syllables are 
entirely dependent upon accident or the writer’s fancy. 

[A quotation from Brahmagupta, showing the way in which the 
Hindus use arithmetic in the metrical system, is given. At the end of 
the quotation Al-Biruni regrets the fact that he could see only ‘a 
single leaf ’ of the treatise mentioned above and expresses the hope 
that he would be able to learn more of the subject later on. Also 
notes that, ‘as far as he could guess’, the Greeks used in their poetry 
similar feet to that of the Hindus. Pp. 147-51.) 


Hindu Literature In The Other Sciences, 
Astronomy, Astrology, Etc. 

Times unfavourable to 
the progress of science 

The number of sciences is great, and it may be still greater if the 
public mind is directed towards them at such times as they are in the 

ascendancy and in general favour with 
all, when people not only honour 
science itself, but also its representatives. 
To do this is, in the first instance, the duty of those who rule over 
them, of kings and princes. For they alone could free the minds of 
scholars from the daily anxieties for the necessities of life, and 
stimulate their energies to earn more fame and favour, the yearning 
for which is the pith and marrow of human nature. 

The present times, however, are not of this kind. They are the very 
opposite, and therefore it is quite impossible that a new science or 
any new kind of research should arise in our days. What we have of 
sciences is nothing but the scanty remains of bygone better times. 

If a science or an idea has once conquered the whole earth, every 
nation appropriates part of it. So do also the Hindus. Their belief 
about the cyclical revolutions of times is nothing very special, but is 
simply in accordance with the results .of scientific observation. 

The science of astronomy is the most famous among them, since 


India by AlrBiruni 

the affairs of their religion are in various ways connected with it. If a 

man wants to gain the title of an 
On the Siddhantas astronomer, he must not only know 

scientific or mathematical astronomy, 
but also astrology. The book known among Muslims as Sindhind 23 is 
called by them Siddhanta, i.e. straight , not crooked nor changing. By 
this name they call every standard book on astronomy, even such 
books as, according to our opinion, do not come up to the mark of 
our so called Zij, i.e. handbooks of mathematical astronomy. They 
have five Siddhantas:— 

I. Surya-siddhanta, i.e. the Siddhanta of the sun, composed by Lata. 

II. Vasishtha-siddhanta, so called from one of the stars of the Great 
Bear, composed by Vishnucandra. 

III. Pulisa-siddhanta, so called from Paulisa, 24 the Greek, from the 
city of Saintra, which I suppose to be Alexandria, composed by 

IV. Romaka-siddhanta, so called from the Rum, i.e. the subjects of 
the Roman Empire, composed by Srishena. 

V. Brahma-siddhanta, so called from Brahman, composed by 
Brahmagupta, 25 the son of Jishnu, from the town of Bhillamala 
between Multan and Anhilwara, 16 yojana from the latter place (?). 

The authors of these books draw from one and the same source, 
the book Paithamaha, so called from the first father, i.e. Brahman. 

Varahamihira has composed an astronomical handbook of small 
compass called Panca-siddhantika, which name ought to mean that it 
contains the pith and marrow of the preceding five Siddhantas. But 
this is not the case, nor is it so much better than they as to be called 
the most correct one of the five. So the name does not indicate 
anything but the fact that the number of Siddhantas is five. 

... Up to the present time I have not been able to procure any of 
these books save those of Pulisa and of Brahmagupta. I have 
commenced translating them, but have not yet finished my work. 
Meanwhile, I shall give here a table of contents of the Brahma- 
siddhanta, which in any case will be useful and instructive. 

Contents of the twenty-four chapters of the Brahma-siddhanta:— 

1. On the nature of the globe and the figure of heaven and earth. 

2. On the revolutions of the planets; on 
the calculation of time, i.e. how to find 
the time for different longitudes and 
latitudes; how to find the mean places of the planets; how to find the 

Contents of the 


Hindu Literature in Other Sciences 


sine of an arc. 

3. On the correction of the places of the planets. 

4. On three problems: how to find the shadow, the bygone 
portion of the day and the ascendens, and how to derive one from the 

5. On the planets becoming visible when they leave the rays of 
the sun, and their becoming invisible when entering them. 

6. On the first appearance of the moon, and about her two cusps. 

7. On the lunar eclipse. 

8. On the solar eclipse. 

9. On the shadow of the moon. 

10. On the meeting and conjunction of the planets. 

11. On the latitudes of the planets. 

12. A critical investigation for the purpose of distinguishing 
between correct and corrupt passages in the texts of astronomical 
treatises and handbooks. 

13. On arithmetic; on plane measure and cognate subjects. 

14. Scientific calculation of the mean places of the planets. 

15. Scientific calculation of the correction of the places of the 

16. Scientific calculation of the three problems (v. chap.4). 

17. On the deflection of eclipses. 

18. Scientific calculation of the appearance of the new moon and 
her two cusps. 

19. On Kuttaka, i.e. the pounding of a thing. The pounding of oil- 
producing substances is here compared with the most minute and 
detailed research. This chapter treats of algebra and related subjects, 
and besides it contains other valuable remarks of a more or less 
arithmetical nature. 

20. On the shadow. 

21. On the calculation of the measures of poetry and on metrics. 

22. On cycles and instruments of observation. 

23. On time and the four measures of time, the solar, the civil, the 
lunar, and the sidereal 

24. About numeral notation in the metrical books of this kind. 

These, now, are twenty-four chapters, according to his own 

statement, but there is a twenty-fifth one, called Dhyana-graha- 
adhyaya, in which he tries to solve the problems by speculation, not 
by mathematical calculation. I have not enumerated it in this list, 
because the pretensions which he brings forward in this chapter are 

India by Al-Biruni 


repudiated by mathematics. I am rather inclined to think that that 
which he produces is meant to be the ratio metaphysica of all 
astronomical methods, otherwise how could any problem of this 
science be solved by anything save by mathematics? 

Such books as do not reach the standard of a Siddhanta are mostly 

called Tantra or Karana. The former means ruling under a governor ; the 

^ „ latter means following, i.e. following 

On the literature of u 0 . ,' . TT , 

Tantras and Karan as Deninu the oiddhanta. Under governors 

they understand the Acaryas, i.e. the 
sages, anchorites, the followers of Brahman. 

There are two famous Tantras by Aryabhata 26 and Balabhadra, 
besides the Rasayana-tantra by Bhanuyasas (?). About what Rasayana 
means we shall give a separate chapter (chap. xvii). 

As for Karanas, there is one ( lacuna ) called by his name, besides 
the Karana-khanda-khadyaka by Brahmagupta. The last word, khanda, 
means a kind of their sweetmeats. With regard to the reason why he 
gave his book this title, I have been told the following:— 

Sugriva, the Buddhist, had composed an astronomical handbook 
which he called Dadhi-sagara, i.e. the sea of sour-milk; and a pupil of 
his composed a book of the same kind which he called Kura-babaya (?) 
i.e. a mountain of rice. Afterwards he composed another book which 
he called Lavana-mushti, i.e. a handful of salt. Therefore Brahmagupta 
called his book the Sweetmeat-khadyaka — in order that all kinds of 
victuals (sour-milk, rice, salt, &c.) should occur in the titles of the 
books on this science. 

The contents of the book Karana-khanda-khadyaka represent the 
doctrine of Aryabhata. Therefore Brahmagupta afterwards compos¬ 
ed a second book, which he called Uttara-khanda-khadyaka, i.e. the 
explanation of the Khanda-khadyaka. And this book is again followed 
by another one called Khanda-khadyaka-tippa (mc), of which I do not 
know whether it is composed by Brahmagupta or somebody else. It 
explains the reasons and the nature of the calculations employed in 
the Khanda-khadyaka. I suppose it is a work of Balabhadra. 

Further, there is an astronomical handbook composed by 
Vijayanandin, the commentator, in the city of Benares, entitled 
Karana-tilaka, i.e. the blaze on the front of the Karanas; another one 
by Vittesvara the son of Bhadatta (? Mihdatta), of the city of 
Nagarapura, called Karana-sara, i.e. that which has been derived 
from the Karana; another one, by Bhanuyasas (?), is called Karana- 
para-tilaka, which shows, as I am told, how the corrected places of 

Hindu Literature in Other Sciences 


the stars are derived from one another. 

There is a book by Utpala the Kashmirian called Rahunrakarana 
(?), i.e. breaking the Karanas; and another called Karana-pata, i.e. 
killing the Karanas. Besides there is a book called Karana-cudamani 
of which I do not know the author. 

There are more books of the same kind with other titles, e.g. the 
great Manasa, composed by Manu, and the commentary by Utpala; 
the small Manasa, an epitome of the former by Puncala (?), from the 
southern country; Dasagitika, by Aryabhata; Aryashtasata, by the 
same; Lokananda, so called from the name of the author, Bhattila (?), 
so called from its author, the Brahman Bhattila. The books of this 
kind are nearly innumerable. 

As for astrological literature, each one of the following authors 
has composed a so-called Samhita, viz:— 

Mandavya. Balabhadra. 

On astrological literature, Parasera. Divyatattva. 

the so-called Samhitas Garga. Varahamihira. 

Samhita means that which is collected, books containing something of 
everything, e.g. forewarnings relating to a journey derived from 
meteorological occurrences; prophecies regarding the fate of 
dynasties; the knowledge of lucky and unlucky things; prophesying 
from the lines of the hand; interpretation of dreams, and taking 
auguries from the flight or cries of birds. For Hindu scholars believe 
in such things. It is the custom of their astronomers to propound in 
their Samhitas also the whole science of meteorology and 

Each one of the following authors has composed a book, Jataka, 
i.e. book of nativities, viz.:— 

Parasara. Jivasarman. 

Satya. Mau, the Greek. 


Varahamihira has composed two Jatakas, a small and a large one. 
The latter of these has been explained by Balabhadra, and the 
former I have translated into Arabic ... Of Varatiamihira there are 
several small books, e.g. Shat-Pancasika, fifty-six chapters on 
astrology; Hora Panca-hotriya (?) on the same subject 

Travelling is treated of in the book Yogayatra and the book Tikam 
(?) -yatra, marriage and marrying in the book Vivaha-patala, architec¬ 
ture in the book (lacuna). 

The Jatakas, i.e. books 
on nativities 


India by Al-Biruni 

The art of taking auguries from the flight or cries of birds, and of 
the foretelling by means of piercing a needle into a book, is 
propounded in the work called Srudhava (? srotavya ), which exists in 
three different copies ... 

Medicine belongs to the same class of sciences as astronomy, but 
there is this difference, that the latter stands in close relation to the 

religion of the Hindus. They have a book 
Medical literature called by the name of its author, i.e. 

Car aka, 11 which they consider as the 
best of their whole literature on medicine. According to their belief, 
Caraka was a Rishi in the last Dvapara-yuga, when his name was 
Agnivesa, but afterwards he was called Caraka, i.e. the intelligent one, 
after the first elements of medicine had been laid down by certain 
Rishis, the children of Sutra. These latter had received them from 
Indra, Indra from Asvin, one of the two physicians of the Devas, and 
Asvin had received them from Prajapati, i.e. Brahman, the first father. 
This book has been translated into Arabic for the princes of the 
house of the Barmecides. 28 

The Hindus cultivate numerous other branches of science and 
literature, and have a nearly boundless literature. I, however, could 

not comprehend it with my knowledge. 
On Pancatantra I wish I could translate the book 

Pancatantra, known among us as the 
book of Kalila and Dimna. 29 It is far spread in various languages, in 
Persian, Hindi, and Arabic—in translations of people who are not 
free from the suspicion of having altered the text. For instance, 
Abdullah Ibn Almukaffa 30 has added in his Arabic version the 
chapter about Barzoya, with the intention of raising doubts in the 
minds of people of feeble religious belief, and to gain and prepare 
them for the propagation of the doctrines of the Manichaeans. And if 
he is open to suspicion insofar as he has added something to the text 
which he had simply to translate, he is hardly free from suspicion in 
his capacity as translator. 


Notes On Hindu Metrology, Intended To 
Facilitate The Understanding Of All Kinds 
Of Measurements Which Occur In This Book 

Counting is innate to man. The measure of a thing becomes known 
by its being compared with another thing which belongs to the same 

species and is assumed as a unit by 
The Hindu system of weights general consent. Thereby the difference 

between the object and this standard 

becomes known. 

By weighing, people determine the amount of gravity of heavy 
bodies, when the tongue of the scales stands at right angles on the 
horizontal plane. Hindus Want the scales very little, because their 
dirhams are determined by number, not by weight, and their fractions, 
too, are simply counted as so-and-so many fulus. The coinage of both 
dirhams and fulus is different according to towns and districts. They 
weigh gold with the scales only when it is in its natural state or such 
as has been worked, e.g. for ornaments, but not coined. They use as 
a weight of gold the suvama = 1 Vs tola . They use the tola as frequently 
as we use the mithkal. According to what I have been able to learn 
from them it corresponds to three of our dirhams, of which 10 equal 7 


India by Al-Biruni 

Therefore 1 tola = 2 1/10 of our mithkal 

The greatest fraction of a tola is 1 / 12 , called mash a. 

Therefore 16 masha = 1 suvama. 


1 masha = 4 andi (eranda), i.e. the seed of a tree called Gaura. 

1 andi = 4 yava. 

1 yava = 6 

1 kala — 4 pada. 

1 pada = 4 mdri (?). 

.. . Since, the unit of measure is not a natural unit, but a 
conventional one assumed by general consent, it admits of both 
practical and imaginary division. Its subdivisions or fractions are 
different in different places at one and the same time, and at different 
periods in one and the same country. Their names, too, are different 
according to places and times; changes which are produced either by 
the organic development of languages or by accident. 

A man from the neighbourhood of Somnath told me that their 
mithkal is equal to ours: that 

1 mithkal = 8 ruvu; 1 ruvu = 2 pali; 1 pali =16 yava, i.e., barley-corn. 

Accordingly, 1 mithkal = 8 ruvu = 16 pali = 256 yava. 

[Varahamihira and Caraka are quoted. The scale given by the 
former based on the measurements which he prescribes for the 
construction of idols, is given. Pp. 162-64.] 

The balances with which the Hindus weigh things are charistiones, of 
which the weights are immovable, whilst the scales move on certain 

marks and lines. Therefore, the balance 
The Hindu balance is called tula. The first lines mean the 

units of the weight from 1 to 5, and 
farther on to 10; the following lines mean the tenths, 10, 20, 30, &c 

The Hindus have a weight called bhara , which is mentioned in the 
books about the conquest of Sindh. It is equal to 2000 pala; for they 
explain it by 100 X 200 pala, and as nearly equal to the weight of an 
ox. This is all I have lighted on as regards Hindu weights. 

By measuring (with dry measures) people determine the body and 
the bulk of a thing, if it fills up a certain measure which has been 

gauged as containing a certain quantity 
Dry measures of it, it being understood that the way in 

which the things are laid out in the 
measure, the way in which their surface is determined, and the way 

Hindu Metrology 


in which, on the whole, they are arranged within the measure, are in 
every case identical. If two objects which are to be weighed belong to 
the same species, they then prove to be equal, not only in bulk, but 
also in weight; but if they do not belong to the same species, their 
bodily extent is equal, but not their weight. 

They have a measure called bisi (? sibi) which is mentioned by 
every man from Kanauj and Somnath. 

According to the people of Kanauj—4 bisi = 1 prastha, Va bisi = 1 

According to the people of Somnath—16 bisi = 1 panti, 12 panti =1 
moru. . . . 

Mensuration is the determination of distances by lines and of 
superficies by planes. A plane ought to be measured by part of a 

plane, but the mensuration by means of 
Measures of distances lines effects the same purpose, as lines 

determine the limits of planes. 

[Varahamihira is quoted in regard to the units for measuring 
distances. These are as follows:] 

8 barley-corns put together = 1 angula, i.e. fingt* 

4 fingers = 1 rama (?), i.e. the fist. 

24 fingers = 1 hattha , i.e. yard, also called dasta. 

4 yards = 1 dhanu, i.e. arc = a fathom. 

40 arcs = 1 nalva. 

25 nalva = 1 krosa. 

Hence-it follows that 1 kroh = 4000 yards; and as our mile has just 
so many yards, 1 mile = 1 kroh. Pulisa, the Greek, also mentions in 
his Siddhanta that 1 kroh = 4000 yards. 

The yard is equal to 2 mikyas or 24 fingers; for the Hindus 
determine the sanku, i.e. mikyas, by idol-fingers. They do not call the 
twelfth part of a mikyas a finger in general, as we do, but their mikyas is 
always a span. The span, i.e. the distance between the ends of the 
thumb and the small finger at their widest possible stretching, is 
called vitasti and also kishku. 

The distance between the ends of the fourth or ring-finger and the 
thumb, both being stretched out, is called gokama. 

The distance between the ends of the index-finger and of the 
thumb is called karabha, and is reckoned as equal to two-thirds of a 

The distance between the tops of the middle finger and of the 
thumb is called tala. The Hindus maintain that the height of a man is 


India by Al-Biruni 

eight times his tala , whether he be tall or small; as people say with 
regard to the foot, that it is one-seventh of the height of a man. ... 

After the measure of the krosa has been fixed and found to be equal 
to our mile , the reader must learn that they have a measure of 
distances, called yojana, which is equal to 8 miles or to 32,000 yards. 

Perhaps somebody might believe that 
Si S 1 kroh is - K f.nakh, and maintain that 

the farsakhs of the Hindus are 16,000 
yards long. But such is not the case. On the contrary, 1 kroh = Vi 
yojana. In the terms of this measure, Alfazari has determined the 
circumference of the earth in his astronomical handbook. He calls it 
jun , in the plural 'ajwan. 

The elements of the calculations of the Hindus on the circum¬ 
ference of the circle rest on the assumption that it is thrice its diameter. 

So the Matsya-Purana says, after it has 
mentioned the diameters of the sun and 
moon in yojanas: “The circumference is 

thrice the diameter.” 

[Extracts from the Matsya-Purana , Adilya-Purana and the Vayu- 

Purana are quoted. Pp. 168-69.] 

Relation between 
circumference and diameter 


Notes On The Writing Of The Hindus, On Their 
Arithmetic And Related Subjects, And On Certain 
Strange Manners And Customs Of Theirs 

The tongue communicates the thought of the speaker to the hearer. 

Its action has therefore, as it were, a momentary life only, and it 

would have been impossible to deliver 

On various kinds of b oral trac jition the accounts of the 

writing materials J . 

events of the past to later generations, 
more particularly if they are separated from them by long periods of 
time. This has become possible only by a new discovery of the 
human mind, by the art of writing, which spreads news over space as 
the winds spread, and over time as the spirits of the deceased spread. 
Praise therefore be unto Him who has arranged creation and created 
everything for the best! 

The Hindus are not in the habit of writing on hides, like the 
Greeks in ancient times. Socrates, on being asked why he did not 
compose books, gave this reply: “I do not transfer knowledge from 
the living hearts of men to the dead hides of sheep. Muslims, too, 
used in the early times of Islam to write on hides, e.g. the treaty 
between the Prophet and the Jews of Khaibar and his letter to Kisra. 
The copies of the Koran were written on the hides of gazelles, as are 


India by Al-Biruni 

still nowadays the copies of the Thora. There occurs this passage in 
the Koran (Sura vi. 91): “They make it karatis.” i.e. tomaria. The 
kirias (or charta) is made in Egypt, being cut out of the papyrus stalk. 
Written on this material, the orders of the Khalifs went out into all 
the world until shortly before our time. Papyrus has this advantage 
over vellum, that you can neither rub out nor change anything on it, 
because thereby it would be destroyed. It was in China that paper 
was first manufactured. Chinese prisoners introduced the fabrication 
of paper into Samarkand, and thereupon it was made in various 
places, so as to meet the existing want. 

The Hindus have in the south of their country a slender tree like 
the date and cocoa-nut palms, bearing edible fruits and leaves of the 
length of one yard, and as broad as three fingers one put beside the 
other. They call these leaves tari (tala or tar-Borassus Jlabelliformis), 
and write on them. They bind a book of these leaves together by a 
cord on which they are arranged, the cord going through all the 
leaves by a hole in the middle of each. 

In Central and Northern India people use the bark of the tuz tree, 
one kind of which is used as a cover for bows. It is called bhurja. They 
take a piece one yard long and as broad as the outstretched fingers of 
the hand, or somewhat less, and prepare it in various ways. They oil 
and polish it so as to make it hard and smooth, and then they write on 
it. The proper order of the single leaves is marked by numbers. The 
whole book is wrapped up in a piece of cloth and fastened between 
two tablets of the same size. Such a book is called puthi (cf. pasta, 
pustaka). Their letters, and whatever else they have to write, they 
write on the bark of the tuz tree. 

As to the writing or alphabet of the Hindus, we have already 
mentioned that it once had been lo£t and forgotten; that nobody 

cared for it, and that in consequence 
On the Hindu alphabet people became illiterate, sunken into 

gross ignorance, and entirely estranged 
from science. But then Vyasa, the son of Parasara, redisovered their 
alphabet of fifty letters by an inspiration of God. A letter is called 

Some people say that originally the number of their letters was 
less, and that it increased only by degrees. This is possible, or'I 
should even say necessary.... 

The great number of the letters of the Hindu alphabet is explained, 
firstly, by the fact that they express every letter by a separate sign if 

Hindu Writing, Arithmetic, Strange Manners and Customs 81 

it is followed by a vowel or a diphthong or a hamza (visarga), or a 
small extension of the sound beyond the measure of the vowel, and, 
secondly, by the fact that they have consonants which are not found 
together in any other language, though they may be found scattered 
through different languages—sounds of such a nature that our 
tongues, not being familiar with them, can scarcely pronounce them, 
and that our ears are frequently not able to distinguish between 
many a cognate pair of them. 

The Hindus write from the left to the right like the Greeks. They 
do not write on the basis of a line, above which the heads of the 
letters rise whilst their tails go down below, as in Arabic writing. On 
the contrary, their ground-line is above, a straight line above every 
single character, and from this line the letter hangs down and is 
written under it. Any sign above the line is nothing but a grammatical 
mark to denote the pronunciation of the character above which it 

The most generally known alphabet is called Siddhamatrika, which 
is by some considered as originating from Kashmir, for the people of 

Kashmir use it. But it is also used in 
On the local alphabets Varanasi. This town and Kashmir are 

the high schools of Hindu sciences. The 
same writing is used in Madhyadesa, i.e. the middle country, the 
country all around Kanauj, which is also called Aryavarta. 

In Malava there is another alphabet called Nagara, which differs 
from the former only in the shape of the characters. 

Next comes an alphabet called Ardhanagari, i.e. half-nagara , so 
called because it is compounded of the former two. It is used in 
Bhatiya and some parts of Sindh. 

Other alphabets are the Malwari, used in Malwashau, in southern 
Sind, towards the sea-coast; the Saindhava, used in Bahmanwa or 
Almansura; the Karnata, used in Karnatadesa, whence those troops 
come which in the armies are known as Kannara; the Andhri, used in 
Andhradesa; the Dirwari (Dravidi), used in Dirwaradesa (Dravida- 
desa); the Lari, used in Laradesa (Latadesa); the Gauri (Gaudi), used 
in Purvadesa, i.e. the Eastern country; the Bhaikshuki, used in 
Udunpur 30A in Purvadesa. This last is the writing of Buddha. 

The Hindus begin their books with Om, the word of creation, as 

we begin with “In the name of God”. 
On the word Om The figure of the word Om is 

This figure does not consist of letters; 


India by Al-Biruni 

it is simply an image invented to represent this word, which people 
use, believing that it will bring them a blessing, and meaning thereby 
a confession of the unity of God. .. . 

The Hindus do not use the letters of their alphabet for numerical 
notation, as we use the Arabic letters in the order of the Hebrew 

alphabet. As in different parts of India 
On their numeral signs the letters have different shapes, the 

numeral signs, too, which are called 
(inka, differ. The numeral signs which we use are derived from the 
finest forms of the Hindu signs. Signs and figures are of no use if 
people do not know what they mean, but the people of Kashmir mark 
the single leaves of their books with figures which look like drawings 
or like the Chinese characters, the meaning of which can only be 
learned by a very long practice. However, they do not use them 
when reckoning in the sand. 

In arithmetic all nations agree that all the orders of numbers (e.g. 
one, ten, hundred, thousand) stand in a certain relation to the ten; 
that each order is the tenth part of the following and the ten-fold of 
the preceding. I have studied the names of the orders of the numbers 
in various languages with all kinds of people with whom I have been 
in contact, and have found that no nation goes beyond the thousand. 
The Arabs, too, stop with the thousand, which is certainly the most 
correct and the most natural thing to do. I have written a separate 
treatise on this subject. 

Those, however, who go beyond the thousand in their numeral 
system are the Hindus, at least in their arithmetical technical terms, 
which have been either freely invented or derived according to 
certain etymologies, whilst in others both methods are blended 
together. They extend the names of the orders of numbers until the 
18th order for religious reasons, the mathematicians being assisted by 
the grammarians with all kinds of etymologies. 

The 18th order is called Parardha, i.e. the half of heaven, or more 
accurately, the half of that which is above. . . . 

The following are the names of the eighteen orders of numbers:— 
1. Ekam 2. Dasam 3. Satarn 

The eighteen orders A.Sahasram 5. Ayuta 6. Laksha 

of numeration 7 p rayuia g 9. Nyarbuda 

10. Padma 11. Kharva 12. Nikharva 
13. Mahapadma 14. Sanku 15. Samudra 16. Madhya 17. Antya 
18. Parardha. 

Hindu Writing, Arithmetic, Strange Manners and Customs 83 

I shall now mention some of their differences of opinion relating to 
this system. 

Some Hindus maintain that there is a 19th order beyond the Parardha, 
called Bhuri, and that this is the limit of reckoning. But in reality reckoning is 

unlimited; it has only a technical limit, 

thTeStw^SSSS* in " which is conventionally adopted as the 

last of the orders of numbers. By the 
word reckoning in the sentence above they seem to mean nomenclature, 
as if they meant to say that the language has no name for any reckon¬ 
ing beyond the 19th order. It is known that the unit of this order , i.e. 
one bhuri, is equal to one-fifth of the greatest day, but on this subject 
they have no tradition. In their tradition there are only traces of 
combinations of the greatest day, as we shall hereafter explain. 
Therefore this 19th order is an addition of an artificial and hyper- 
accurate nature. 

According to others, the limit of reckoning is koti; and starting 
from koti the succession of the orders of numbers would be koti, 
thousands, hundreds, tenths; for the number of Devas is expressed in 
kotis. According to their belief there are thirty-three kotis of Devas, 
eleven of which belong to each of the three beings, Brahman, 
Narayana, and Mahadeva. 

The names of the orders beyond that of the 18th have been 
invented by the grammarians, as we have said already (p. 82). 

Further, we observe that the popular name of the 5th order is Dasa 
sahasra, that of the 7th order, Dasa laksha; for the two names which we 
have mentioned in the list above (Ayuta, Prayuia) are rarely used. 

The book of Aryabhatta of Kusumapura gives the following 
names of the orders from the ten till 10 koti :— 

Ayutam Koti padma 

Niyutam Para padma 


Furthe/, it is noteworthy that some people establish a kind of 
etymological relationship between the different names; so they call 
the 6th order Niyuta, according to the analogy of the 5 th, which is 
called Ayuta. Further, they call the 8th order Arbuda, according to the 
analogy of the 9th, which is called Nyarbuda. 

There is a similar relation between Nikharva and Kharva, the names 
of the 12th and 11th orders, and between Sanku and Mahasanku, the 
names of the 13th and 14th orders. According to this analogy 
Mahapadma ought to follow immediately after Padma, but this latter is 



India by Al-Biruni 

the name of the 10th, the former the name of the 13th order. 

These are differences of theirs which can be traced back to certain 
reasons; but besides, there are many differences without any reason, 
which simply arise from people dictating these names without 
observing any fixed order, or from the fact that they hate to avow 
their ignorance by a frank I do not know, —a word which is difficult to 
them in any connection whatsoever. ... 

The Hindus use the numeral signs in arithmetic in the same way 
as we do. I have composed a treatise showing how far, possibly, the 

Hindus are ahead of us in this subject. 
Numeral notation We have already explained that the 

Hindus compose their books in Slokas. 
If, now, they wish, in their astronomical handbooks,to express some 
numbers of the various orders, they express them by words used to 
denote certain numbers either in one order alone or at the same time 
in two orders (e.g. a word meaning either 20 or both 20 and 200). For 
each number they have appropriated quite a great quantity of words. 
Hence, if one word does not suit the metre, you may easily exchange 
it for a synonym which suits. Brahmagupta says: “If you want to 
write one, express it by everything which is unique, as the earth, the 
moon; two by everything which is double, as, e.g. black and white; three 
by everything which is threefold; the nbught by heaven, the twelve by 
the names of the sun.” 

I have united in the following table all the expressions for the 
numbers which I used to hear from them; for the knowledge of these 
things is most essential for deciphering their astronomical hand¬ 
books. Whenever I shall come to know all the meanings of these 
words, I will add them, if God permits! [The various sets of words 
used for the different numbers from 0 to 25 are listed, Pp. 178-79.] 

.. . We shall now speak of certain strange manners and customs of 
the Hindus. The strangeness of a thing evidently rests on the fact 

that it occurs but rarely, and that we 
seldom have the opportunity of witness¬ 
ing it. If such strangeness reaches a high 
degree, the thing becomes a curiosity, or even something like a 
miracle, which is no longer in accordance with the ordinary laws of 
nature, and which seems chimerical as long as it has not been 
witnessed. Many Hindu customs differ from those of our country 
and of our time to such a degree as to appear to us simply monstrous. 
One might almost think that they had intentionally changed them 

Strange manners and 
customs of the Hindus 


Hindu Writing, Arithmetic, Strange Manners and Customs 8 "> 

into the opposite, for our customs do not resemble theirs, but are the 
very reverse; and if ever a custom of theirs resembles one of ours, it 
has certainly just the opposite meaning. 

They do not cut any of the hair of the body. Originally they went 
naked in consequence of the heat, and by not cutting the hair of the 
head they intended to prevent sunstroke. 

They divide the moustache into single plaits in order to preserve it. 
As regards their not cutting the hair of the genitals, they try to make 
people believe that the cutting of it incites to lust and increases 
carnal desire. Therefore such of them as feel a strong desire for 
cohabitation never cut the hair of the genitals. 

They let the nails grow long, glorying in their idleness, since they 
do not use them for any business or work, but only, while living a 
dolce far niente life, they scratch their heads with them and examine 
the hair for lice. < - 

The Hindus eat singly, one by one, on a tablecloth of dung. They 
do not make use of the remainder of a meal, and the plates from 
which they have eaten are thrown away if they are earthen. 

They have red teeth in consequence of chewing arecanuts with 
betel-leaves and chalk. 

They drink wine before having eaten anything, then they take their 
meal. They sip the stall of cows, but they do not eat their meat. 

They beat the cymbals with a stick. 

They use turbans for trousers. Those who want little dress are 
content to dress in a rag of two fingers’ breadth, which they bind over 
their loins with two cords; but those who like much dress, wear 
trousers lined with so much cotton as would suffice to make a 
number of counterpanes and saddle-rugs. These trousers have no 
(visible) openings, and they are so huge that the feet are not visible. 
The string by which the trousers are fastened is at the back. 

Their sidar (a piece of dress covering the head and the upper part 
of breast and neck) is similar to the trousers, being also fastened at 
the back by buttons. 

The lappets of the Kurtakas (short shirts from the shoulders to the 
middle of the body with sleeves, a female dress) have slashes both on 
the right and left sides. 

They keep the shoes tight till they begin to put them on. They are 
turned down from the calf before walking (?). 

In washing they begin with the feet, and then wash the face. They 
wash themselves before cohabiting with their wives.... 

86 India by Al-Biruni 

On festive days they besmear their bodies with dung instead of 

The men wear articles of female dress; they use cosmetics, wear 
earrings, arm-rings, golden seal-rings on the ring-finger as well as on 
the toes of the feet.... 

They ride without a saddle, but if they put on a saddle, they mount 
the horse from its right side. In travelling they like to have somebody 
riding behind them. 

They fasten the kuthara , i.e. the dagger, at the waist on the right 

They wear a girdle called Yajnopavita, passing from the left 
shoulder to the right side of the waist. 

In all consultations and emergencies they take the advice of the 

When a child is bom people show particular attention to the man, 
not to the woman. 

Of two children they give the preference to the younger, 
particularly in the eastern parts of the country; for they maintain that 
the elder owes his birth to predominant lust, whilst the younger owes 
his origin to mature reflection and a calm proceeding. 

In shaking hands they grasp the hand of a man from the convex 

They do not ask permission to enter a house, but when they leave 
it they ask permission to do so. 

In their meetings they sit cross-legged. 

They spit out and blow their noses without any respect for the 
elder ones present, and they crack their lice before them. They 
consider the crepitus ventris as a good omen, sneezing as a bad omen. 

They consider as unclean the weaver, but as clean the cupper and 
the flayer, who kills dying animals for money either by drowning or 
by burning. 

They use black tablets for the children in the schools, and write 
upon them along the long side, not the broad side, writing with a 
white material from the left to the right. One would think that the 
author of the following verses had meant the Hindus:— 

“How many a writer uses paper as black as charcoal, 
Whilst his pen writes on it with white colour. 

By writing he places a bright day in a dark night, 

Weaving like a weaver, but without adding a woof.” 

They write the title of a book at the end of it, not at the beginning. 

Hindu Writing, Arithmetic, Strange Manners and Customs 87 

They magnify the nouns of their language by giving them the 
feminine gender, as the Arabs magnify them by the diminutive form. 

If one of them hands over a thing to another, he expects that it 
should be thrown to him as we throw a thing to the dogs. 

If two men play at Nard (backgammon), a third one throws the 
dice between them. 

They like the juice which flows over the cheeks of the rutting 
elephant, which in reality has the most horrid smell. 

In playing chess they move the elephant straight on, not to the 
other sides, one square at a time, like the pawn, and to the four 

comers also one square at time, like the 
On the Indian chesc queen ( firzan ). They say that these five 

squares (i.e. the one straight forward 
and the others at the comers) are the places occupied by the trunk 
and the four feet of the elephant. 

They play chess—four persons at a time—with a pair of dice. 
Their arrangement of the figures on the chess-board is the 










(rukh) 1 



























As this kind of chess is not among us, I shall here explain what 
I know of it. 

The four persons playing together sit so as to form a square round 
a chess-board, and throw the two dice alternately. Of the numbers of 
the dice the five and six are blank (i.e. do not count as such). In that 
case, if the dice shows five or six, the player takes one instead of the 
five, and four instead of the six, because the figures of these two 
numerals are drawn in the following manner— 

6 5 

4 3 2 1 

so as to exhibit a certain likeness of form to 4 and 1, viz. in the Indian 


India by Al-Biruni 

The name Shah or king applies here to the queen (firzan ). 

Each number of the dice causes a move of one of the figures. 

The 1 moves either the pawn or the king. Their moves are the 
same as in the common chess. The king may be taken, but is not 
required to leave his place. 

The 2 moves the tower ( rukh ). It moves to the third square in the 
direction of the diagonal, as the elephant moves in our chess. 

The 3 moves the horse. Its move is the generally known one to the 
third square in oblique direction. 

The 4 moves the elphant. It moves in a straight line, as the tower 
does in our chess, unless it be prevented from moving on. If this is 
the case, as sometimes happens, one of the dice removes the 
obstacle, and enables it to move on. Its smallest move is one square, 
the greatest fifteen squares, because the dice sometimes show two 4, 
or two 6, or a 4 and a 6. In consequence of one of these numbers, the 
elephant moves along the whole side of the margin on the chess¬ 
board; in consequence of the other number, it moves along the other 
side on the other margin of the board, in case there is no impediment 
in its way. In consequence of these two numbers, the elephant, in the 
course of his moves, occupies the two ends of the diagonal. 

The pieces have certain values, according to which the player gets 
his share of the stake, for the pieces are taken and pass into the hands 
of the player. The value of the king is 5, that of the elephant 4, of the 
horse 3, of the tower 2, and of the pawn 1. He who takes a king gets 
5. For two kings he gets 10, for three kings 15, if the winner is no 
longer in possession of his own king. But if he has still his own king, 
and takes all three kings, he gets 54, a number which represents a 
progression based on general consent, not on an algebraic principle. 

[Al-Biruni concludes this account of the Hindu manners and 
customs by remarking that the Hindus claimed to be different from 
the Muslims and to be ‘something better’ than them, but adds that 
this attitude of self-adulation was adopted by the Muslims too. In the 
context of the ‘strange’ manners and customs of the Hindus he also 
recalls some of the immoral practices prevalent among the Arabs 
before the rise of Islam. He expresses satisfaction over the fact that 
with the rise of Islam these evils had been abolished in Arabia and 
‘those parts of India the people of which have become Muhamma¬ 
dans.’ Pp. 185-86.] 


On Hindu Sciences Which Prey On The 
Ignorance Of People 

We understand by witchcraft, making by some kind of delusion a 
thing appear to the senses as something different from what it is in 

reality. Taken in this sense, it is far 

Hind a i C s h in m ger r a" 8 s P read amon S P eo P le - Understood, 

however, as common people understand 
it, as the producing of something which is impossible, it is a thing 
which does not lie within the limits of reality. For as that which is 
impossible cannot be produced, the whole affair is nothing but a 
gross deception. Therefore witchcraft in this sense has nothing 
whatever to do with science. 

One of the species of witchcraft is alchemy, though it is generally 
not called by this name. But if a man takes a bit of cotton and makes 
it appear as a bit of gold, what would you call this but a piece of 
witchcraft? It is quite the same as if he were to take a bit of silver and 
make it appear as gold, only with this difference, that the latter is a 
generally-known process, i.e* the gilding of silver, the former is not. 

The Hindus do not pay particular attention to alchemy, but no 
nation is entirely free from it, and one nation has more bias for it 
than another, which must not be construed as proving intelligence or 


India by Al-Biruni 

ignorance; for we find that many intelligent people are entirely given 
to alchemy, whilst ignorant people ridicule the art and its adepts. 
Those intelligent people, though boisterously exulting over their 
make-believe science, are not to be blamed for occupying them¬ 
selves with alchemy, for their motive is simply excessive eagerness 
for acquiring fortune and for avoiding misfortune. Once a sage was 
asked why scholars always flock to the doors of the rich, whilst the 
rich are not inclined to call at the doors of scholars. “The scholars, 
he answered, “are well aware of the use of money, but the rich are 
ignorant of the nobility of science.” On the other hand, ignorant 
people are not to be praised, although they behave quite quietly, 
simply because they abstain from alchemy, for their motives are 
objectionable ones, rather practical results of innate ignorance and 
stupidity than anything else. 

The adepts in this art try to keep it concealed, and shrink back 
from intercourse with those who do not belong to them. Therefore I 
have not been able to learn from the Hindus which methods they 
follow in this science, and what element they principally use, 
whether a mineral or an animal or a vegetabe one. I only heard them 
speaking of the process of sublimation, of calcination, of analysis, and of 
the waxing of talc, which they call in their language talaka, and so I 
guess that they incline towards the mineralogical method of 

They have a science similar to alchemy which is quite peculiar to 
them. They call it Rasayana, a word composed with rasa, i.e. gold. It 

means an art which is restricted to 
The science of Rasayana certain operations, drugs, and com¬ 

pound medicines, most of which are 
taken from plants. Its principles restore the health of those who were 
ill beyond hope, and give back youth to fading old age, so that people 
become again what they were in the age near puberty; white hair 
become black again, the keenness of the senses is restored as well as 
the capacity for juvenile agility, and even for cohabitation, and the 
life of people in this world is even extended to a long period. 

[Incredulous stories about some adepts in the ‘science of 
Rasayana’, such as Nagaijuna of the ‘fort Dihak near Somnath’, 
Vyadi who lived in Ujjain during the reign of Vikramaditya, an 
unnamed person who lived in Dhar, capital of Malwa, and an 
indigent fruit-seller called Ranka and King Vallabha of the city of 
Vallabhi are mentioned. Some of them had accidentally discovered 

Sciences Which Prey on People's Ignorance 


the secret formula and acquired supernatural powers as a result of 
it. Others had met with tragic ends. Pp. 189-93.] 

The greediness of the ignorant Hindu princes for gold-making 
does not know any limit. If any one of them wanted to carry out a 
scheme of gold-making, and people advised him to kill a number of 
fine little children, the monster would not refrain from such a crime; 
he would throw them into the fire. If this precious science of 
Rasayana were banished to the utmost limits of the world, where it is 
unattainable to anybody, it would be the best. . . . 

As regards charms and incantations, the Hindus have a firm belief 

in them, and they, as a rule, are much 
On the bird Garuda inclined towards them. The book which 

treats of those things is considered 
as a work of Garuda, a bird on which Narayana rode. ... 

Most of their charms are intended for those who have been bitten 

by serpents. 

In"he^bUe^ftennis l Some stories about the effectiveness 

of charms are mentioned. P. 194.] 

I myself have witnessed that in hunting gazelles they caught them 
with the hand. One Hindu even went so far as to assert that he, 

without catching the gazelle, would 
drive it before him and lead it straight 
into the kitchen. This, however, rests, 
as I believe I have found out, simply on the device of slowly and 
constantly accustoming the animals to one and the same melody.... 

The shooters of Kata-birds have a custom of beating copper- 
vessels during the night with one and the same kind of beat, and they 
manage to catch them with the hand. If, however, the beat is 
changed, the birds fly off in all directions. 

All these things are peculiar customs which have nothing 
whatsoever to do with charms. Sometimes the Hindus are con¬ 
sidered as sorcerers because of their playing with balls on raised 
beams or on tight ropes, but tricks of this kind are common to all 

Hunting practices 


Various Notes On Their Country, Their Rivers, 
And Their Ocean. Itineraries Of The Distances 
Between Their Several Kingdoms, And Between 
The Boundaries Of Their Country 

The inhabitable world 
and the ocean 

The reader is to imagine the inhabitable world, he oikoumene, as lying 
in the northern half of the earth, apd more accurately in one-half of 

this half—i.e. in one of the quarters.of 
the earth. It is surrounded by a sea, 
which both in west and east is called the 
comprehending one; the Greeks call its western part near their country 
okeanos. This sea separates the inhabitable world from whatever 
continents or inhabitable islands there may be beyond it, both 
towards west and east; for it is not navigable on account of the 
darkness of the air and the thickness of the water, because there is no 
more any road to be traced, and because the risk is enormous, whilst 
the profit is nothing. Therefore people of olden times have fixed 
marks both on the sea and its shores which are intended to deter from 
entering it. 

The inhabitable world does not reach the north on account of the 
cold, except in certain places where it penetrates into the north in the 

Their Country, Rivers and Ocean 


shape, as it were, of tongues and bays. In the south it reaches as far 
as the coast of the ocean, which in west and east is connected with the 
comprehending ocean This southern ocean is navigable. It does not 
form the utmost southern limit of the inhabitable world. On the 
contrary, the latter stretches still more southward in the shape of 
large and small islands which fill the ocean. In this southern region 
land and water dispute with each other their position, so that in one 
place the continent protrudes into the sea, whilst in another the sea 
penetrates deeply into the continent. 

The continent protrudes far into the sea in the western half of the 
earth, and extends its shores far into the south. On the plains of this 
continent live the western Negroes, whence the slaves are brought; 
and there are the Mountains of the Moon, and on them are sources of 
the Nile. On its coast, and the islands before the coast, live the 
various tribes of the Zanj. There are several bays or gulfs which 
penetrate into the continent on this western half of the earth—the 
bay of Berbera, that of Klysma (the Red Sea), and that of Persia (the 
Persian Gulf); and between these gulfs the western continent 
protrudes more or less into the ocean. 

In the eastern half of the earth the sea penetfates as deeply into the 
northern continent as the continent in the western half protrudes into 
the southern sea, and in many places it has formed bays and 
estuaries which run far into the continent—bays being parts of the 
sea, estuaries being the outlets of rivers towards the sea. This sea is 
mostly called from some island in it or from the coast which borders 
it. Here, however, we are concerned only with that part of the sea 
which is bordered by the continent of India, and therefore is called 
the Indian Ocean. 

As to the orographic configuration of the inhabitable world, 
imagine a range of towering mountains like the vertebrae of a pine 

stretching through the middle latitude of 
the earth, and in longitude from east to 
west, passing through China, Tibet, the 

The orographic system 
of Asia and Europe 

country of the Turks, Kabul, Badhakhshan, Tokharistan, Bamiyan 
Elghor, Khurasan, Media, Adharbaijan, Armenia, the Roman 
Empire, the country of the Franks, and of the Jalalika (Gallicians). 
Long as this range is, it has also a considerable breadth, and, 
besides, many windings which enclose inhabited plains watered by 
streams which descend from the mountains both towards north and 
south. One of these plains is India, limited in the south by the above 


India by Al-Biruni 

mentioned Indian Ocean, and on all three other sides by the lofty 
mountains, the waters of which flow down to it. But if you have seen 
the soil of India with your own eyes and meditate on its nature if 
vou consider the rounded stones found in the earth however deeply 

you dig, stones that are huge near the 
mountains and where the rivers have a 
violent current; stones that are of 

India, a recent alluvial 

smaller size at greater distance from the mountains, and where the 
streams flow more slowly; stones that appear pulverised in the shape 
of sand where the streams begin to stagnate near their mouths and 
near the sea—if you consider all this, you could scarcely help 
thinking that India has once been a sea which by degrees has been 
filled up by the alluvium of the streams. 

The middle of India is the country round Kanoj (Kanauj), which 
they call Madhyadesa, i.e. the middle of the realms. It is the middle or 

centre from a geographical point of 
view, insofar as it lies half way between 
the sea and the mountains, in the midst 
between the hot and the cold provinces. 

First orientation regarding 
Madhyadesa, Kanoj, 
Mahura, and Taneshar 

and also between the eastern and western frontiers of India. But it is 
a political centre too, because in former times it was the residence of 
their most famous heroes and kings. 

The country of Sindh lies to the west of Kanoj. In marching from 
our country to Sindh we start from the country of Nimroz, i.e. the 
country of Sijistan, whilst marching to Hind or India proper we start 
from the side of Kabul. This, howevei, is not the only possible road. 
You may march into India from all sides, supposing that you can 
remove the obstacles in the way. In the mountains which form the 
frontier of India towards the west there are tribes of the Hindus, or of 
people near akin to them—rebellious savage races—which extend as 
far as the farthermost frontiers of the Hindu race. 

Kanoj lies to the west of the Ganges, a very large town, but most 
of it is now in ruins .and desolate since the capital has been 
transferred thence to the city of Bari 31 , east of the Ganges. Between 
the two towns there is a distance of three to four days’ marches. 

As Kanoj (Kanyakubja) has become famous by the children of 
Pandu, the city of Mahura (Mathura) has become famous by 
Vasudeva. It lies east of the river Jaun (Yamuna). The distance 
between Mahura and Kanoj is 28 farsakhr . 

Taneshar (Sthanesvara) lies between the two rivers to the north 

Their Country, Rivers and Ocean 


Hindu method of 
determining distances 

both of Kanoj and Mahura, at a distance of nearly 80 farsakh from 
Kanoj, and nearly 50 farsakh from Mahura. 

The river Ganges rises in the mountains which have already been 
mentioned. Its source is called Ganga-dvara. Most of the other rivers 
of the country also rise in the same mountains, as we have already 
mentioned in the proper place. 

As for the distances between the various parts of India, those who 
have not themselves actually seen them must rely upon tradition; but 

unfortunately it is of such a nature that 
already Ptolemy incessantly complains 
of its transmitters and their bias towards 
story-telling. Fortunately I have found out a certain rule by which to 
control their lies. The Hindus frequently estimate the burden an ox 
could bear at 2000 and 3000 mana (which is infinitely more than an 
ox could carry at once). In consequence they are compelled to let the 
caravan make the same march to and fro during many days—in fact, 
so long until the ox has carried the whole load assigned to it from one 
end of the route to the other, and then they reckon as the distance 
between the two places a march of such a number of days as the caravan 
has altogether spent in marching to and fro. It is only with the 
greatest exertion and caution that we can to some extent correct the 
statements of the Hindus. However, we could not make up our mind 
to suppress that which we know on account of that which we do not 
know. We ask the readers’s pardon where there is anything wrong, 
and now we continue. 

A man marching from Kanoj to the south between the two rivers 
Jaun and Ganges passes the following well known places:— Jajja- 

mau, 12 farsakh from Kanoj, each farsakh 

Pra™aga TAilihabLd) T and ° f ^ e ^ Ual to four mi,es or one kumh ^ 

to the eastern coast Abhapuri, 8 farsakh; Kuraha, 8 farsakh; 

Barhamshil, 8 farsakh ; the Tree of Prayaga, 
12 farsakh, the place where the water of the Jaun joins the Ganges, 
where the Hindus torment themselves with various kinds of tortures, 
which are described in the books about religious sects. The distance 
from Prayaga to the place where the Ganges flows into the sea is 12 
farsakh (sic). 

Other tracts of country extend from the Tree of Prayaga south¬ 
ward towards the coast. Arku-tirtha, 12 farsakh from Prayaga; the 
realm Uwaryahar ; 40 farsakh; Urdabishau on the coast, 50 farsakh. 

Thence along the coast towards the east there are countries which 


India by Al-Biruni 

are now under the sway of Jaur; first Daraur, 40 farsakh from 
Urdabishau; Kanji, 30 farsakh; Malaya, 40 farsakh; Kunk, 30 farsakh, 

which is the last of Jaur’s possessions in this direction. 

Marching from Bari along the Ganges on its eastern side, you pass 

the following stations:— Ajodaha 

From Bari to the (Avodhya, Oudh), 25 farsakh from Bari; 

mouth of the Ganges \ r „ f 

the famous Banarasi, 20 Jarsakh. 

Thence changing the direction, and marching eastward instead of 
southward, you come to Sharwar, 35 farsakh from Banarasi; Patali- 
butra, 20 farsakh; Mungiri, 15 farsakh; Janpa, 30 farsakh; Dugumpur, 50 
farsakh; Gangasayara, 30 farsakh, where the Ganges flows into the 


Marching from Kanoj towards the east, you come to Ban, 10 
farsakh; Dugum, 45 farsakh; the empire of Shilahat, \0farsakh; the town 
• ‘ Bihat, \2 farsakh. Farther on the country 

Kanoj through Nepal the right is called Tilwat, the 

to Bhoteshar inhabitants Tarn, people of very black 

colour and flat-nosed like the Turks. Thence you come to the 
mountains of Kamru, which stretch away as far as the sea. 

Opposite Tilwat the country to the left is the realm of Naipal. A 
man who had travelled in those countries gave me the following 
report:—“When in Tanwat, he left the easterly direction and turned 
to the left. He marched to Naipal, a distance of 20 farsakh, most ot 
which was ascending country. From Naipal he came to Bhoteshar in 
thirty days, a distance of nearly 80 farsakh, in which there is more 
ascending than descending country. And there is a water which is 
several times crossed on bridges consisting of planks tied with cords 
to two canes, which stretch from rock to rock, and are fastened to 
milestones constructed on either side. People carry the burdens on 
their shoulders over such a bridge, whilst below, at a depth ot 100 
yards, the water foams as white as snow, threatening to shatter the 
rocks. On the other side of the bridges, the burdens are transported 
on the back of goats. ...” 

“Bhoteshar is the first frontier of Tibet. There the language 
changes as well as the costumes and the anthropological character o 
the people. Thence the distance to the top of the highest pea: is 20 
farsakh From the height of this mountain, India appears as a black 
expanse below the mist, the mountains lying below this peak like 
small hills, and Tibet and China appear as red. The descent towards 
Tibet and China is less than one farsakh" • 

Their Country, Rivers and Ocean 


Marching from Kanoj towards the south-east, on the western side 
of the Ganges, you come to the realm of Jajahuti, 30 farsakh from 

Kanoj. The capital of the country is 
From Kanoj to Banavas Kajuraha. Between this town and Kanoj 

there are two of the most famous fort¬ 
resses of India, Gwaliyar (Gwalior) and Kalanjar. Dahala [—farsakh], 
a country the capital of which is Tiauri, and the ruler of which is now 

The realm of Kannakara, 20 farsakh, Apsur, Banavas, on the seacoast. 

Marching from Kanoj towards the south-west, you come to A si, 18 
farsakh from Kanoj; Sahanya, 17 farsakh; Jandra, 18 farsakh; Rajauri, 15 

farsakh; Bazana, the capital of Guzarat, 
From Kanoj to Bazana 20 farsakh This town is called Narayan 

by our people. After it had fallen ipto 
decay the inhabitants migrated to another place called Jadura (?) 

The distance between Mahura and Kanoj is the same as that 
between Kanoj and Bazana, viz. 28 farsakh If a man travels from 

Mahura to Ujain, he passes through 
From Mahura to Dhar villages which are only five farsakh and 

less distant from each other. At the end 
of a march of 35 farsakh, he comes to a large village called Dudahi; 
thence to Bamahur, 17 farsakh from Dudahi; Bhailsan,5 farsakh a place 
most famous among the Hindus. The name of the town is identical 
with that of the idol worshipped there. Thence to Ardin, 9 farsakh The 
idol worshipped there is called Mahakala. DharJ farsakh 

Marching from Bazana southward, you come to Maiwar, 25 farsakh 
from Bazana. This is a kingdom the capital of which is Jattaraur. 

From this town to Malava and its 
From Bazana to Mandagir capital, Dhar, the distance is 20 farsakh 

The city of Ujain lies 7 farsakh to the 

east of Dhar. 

From Ujain to Bhailasan, which likewise belongs to Malava, the 
distance is 10 farsakh 

Marching from Dhar southward, you come to Bhumihara, 20 
farsakh from Dhar; Kand, 20 farsakh; Namavur, on the banks of the 
Narmada (Nerbudda), 10 farsakh Alispur, 20 farsakh; Mandagir, on the 
banks of the river Godavar, 60 farsakh 

Again marching from Dhar southward, you come to the valley of 

Namiyya, 1 farsakh from Dhar; Mahratta- 
Desh, 18 farsakh; the province of Kunkan, 

From Dhar to Tana 


India by Al-Biruni 

and its capital, Tana, on the sea-coast, 25 farsakh. ... 

The ganda exists in large numbers in India, more particularly 
about the Ganges. It is of the build of a buffalo, has a black scaly 

skin, and dewlaps hanging down under 
Notes about various c hj n it has three yellow hoofs on 

animals of India each f oot> the biggest one forward, the 

others on both sides. The tail is not long; the eyes lie low, farther 
down the cheek than is the case with all other animals. On the top of 
the nose there is a single horn which is bent upwards. The Brahmins 
have the privilege of eating the flesh of the ganda. I have myself 
witnessed how an elephant coming across a young ganda was 
attacked by it. The ganda wounded with its horn a forefoot of the 
elephant, and threw it down on its face. 

I thought that the ganda was the rhinoceros (or karkadann), but a 
man who had visited Sufala, in the country of the Negroes, told me 
that the kark, which the Negroes call impila, the horn of which 
furnishes the material for the handles of our knives, comes nearer 
this description than the rhinoceros. 

There are crocodiles in the rivers of India as in the Nile, a fact 
which led simple Aljahiz, in his ignorance of the courses of the rivers 
and the configuration of the ocean, to think that the river of Muhran 
(the river Sindh) was a branch of the Nile. Besides, there are other 
marvellous animals in the rivers of India of the crocodile tribe, 
makara, curious kinds of fishes, and an animal like a leather-bag, 
which appears to the ships and plays in swimming. It is called burn 
(porpoise ?). I suppose it to be the dolphin or a kind of dolphin. 
People say that it has a hole on the head for taking breath like the 
dolphin. ... 

After this digression we return to our subject. 

Marching from Bazana towards the 
From Bazana to Somanath south-west, you come to Anhilvara, 60 

farsakh from Bazana; Somanath, on the 

sea-coast, 50 farsakh. . 

Marching from Anhilvara southward, you come to Lardesh, to tne 
two capitals of the country, Bihroj and Rihanjur, 42 farsakh from 
Anhilvara. Both are on the sea-coast to the east of Tana. 

Marching from Bazana towards the 
From Anhilvara to Loharani west, you come to Multan, 50 farsakh 

from Bazana; Bhati, 15 farsakh 

Marching from Bhati towards the south-west, you come to Am 

Their Country, Rivers and Ocean 


15 farsakh from Bhati, a township between two arms of the Sindh 
river; Bamhanwa Almansura , 20 farsakh; Loharani, at the mouth of the 
Sindh river, 30 farsakh. 

Marching from Kanoj towards the north-north-west, you come to 
Shirsharaha, 50 farsakh from Kanoj; Pinjaur ; 18 farsakh, situated on 

the mountains, whilst opposite it in the 
From Kanoj to Kashmir plain there lies the city of Taneshar; 

Dahmala, the capital of Jalandhar, at the 
foot of the mountains, 18 farsakh; Ballawar, 10 farsakh; thence march¬ 
ing westward* you come to Ladda, 13 farsakh; the fortress Rajagiri, 
8 farsakh; thence marching northward, you come to Kashmir, 25 

Marching from Kanoj towards the west, you come to Diyamau, 
10 farsakh from Kanoj; Kuti, 10 farsakh; Anar, 10 farsakh; Mirat, 10 

farsakh; Panipat, 10 farsakh. Between the 
From Kanoj to Ghazna latter two places flows the river Jaun; 

Kawital 10 farsakh; Sunnam, 10 farsakh 

Thence marching towards the north-west, you come to Adittahaur, 9 
farsakh; Jajjanir, 6 farsakh; Mandahukur, the capital of Lauhawur, easit 
of the river Irawa, 8 farsakh; the river Candraha, 12 farsakh; the river 
Jailam, west of the river Biyatta, 8 farsakh; Waihind, the capital of 
Kandhar, west of the river Sindh, 20 farsakh; Purshawar, 14 farsakh; 
Dunpur, 15 farsakh; Kabul, 12 farsakh; Ghazna, 17 farsakh. 

Kashmir lies on a plateau surrounded by high inaccessible 
mountains. The south and east of the country belongs to the Hindus, 

the west to various kings, the Bolar- 
Notes about Kashmir Shah and the Shugnan-Shah and the 

more remote parts up to the frontiers of 
Badhakhshan, to the Wakhan-Shah. The north and part of the east of 
the country belong to the Turks of Khoten and Tibet. The distance 
from the peak of Bhoteshar to Kashmir through Tibet amounts to 
nearly 300 farsakh . 

The inhabitants of Kashmir are pedestrians, they have no riding 
animals nor elephants. The noble among them ride in palankins 
called hatt , carried on the shoulders of men. They are particularly 
anxious about the natural strength of their country, and therefore 
take always much care to keep a strong hold upon the entrances and 
roads leading into it. In consequence, it is very difficult to have any 
commerce wifh them. In former times they used to allow one or two 
foreigners to enter their country, particularly Jews, but at present 


India by Al-Biruni 

they do not allow any Hindu whom they do not know personally to 
enter, much less other people. 

.... The city of Kashmir covers a space of four farsakh being built 
along both banks of the river Jailam, which are connected with each 
other by bridges and ferry-boats. The Jailam rises in the mountains 
Haramakot, where also the Ganges rises, cold, impenetrable regions 
where the snow never melts nor disappears. Behind them there is 
Mahacin, i.e. Great China. ... 

This is the frontier of India from the north. 

In the western frontier mountains of India there live various tribes 
of the Afghans, and extend up to the neighbourhood of the Sindh 


The southern frontier of India is formed by the ocean. The coast of 
India begins with Tiz, the capital of Makran, and extends thence in a 

south-eastern direction towards the 
region of Al-daibal, over a distance of 
40 farsakh. Between the two places lies 

The western and southern 
frontiers of India 

the Gulf of Turan. ... 

After the above-mentioned gulf follow the small Munha, the great 
Munha, then the Bawarij, i.e. the pirates of Kacch and Somariath. 
They are thus called because they commit their robberies on sea in 
ships called bira. The places on the coast are:— Tawalleshar, 50 
farsakh from Daibal; Loharani, 12 farsakh; Baga, 12 farsakh; Kacch, 
where the mukl- tree grows, and Baroi, 6 farsakh; Somanath, \d farsakh; 
Kanbayat, 30 farsakh; Asawil, 2 days; Bihroj, 30 farsakh (?); Sandan, 50 
farsakh; Subara, 6 farsakh; Tana, 5 farsakh 

Thence the coast-line comes to the country Laran, in which lies tne 

city oijimur, then to Vallabha, Kanji, Darvad. Next follows a great bay 
in which Singaldib lies, i.e. the island Sarandib (Ceylon). Round the 
bay lies the city of Panjayavar (sic). When this city had fallen into 
ruins, the king, Jaur, built instead of it, on the coast towards the west, 
a new city which he called Padnar. 

The next place on the coast is Ummalnara, then Ramsher 
(Rameshar?) opposite Sarandib; the distance of the sea between 
them is 12 farsakh. The distance from Panjayavar to Ramsher is 40 
farsakh, that between Ramsher and Setubandha 2 farsakh Setubandha 
means bridge of the ocean. It is the dike of Rama, the son of Dasaratha, 
which he built from the continent to the castle Lanka. At present it 
consists of isolated mountains between which the ocean flows. 
Sixteen farsakh from Setubandha towards the east is Kihkind. the 

Their Country, Rivers and Ocean 


mountains of the monkeys. Every day the king of monkeys comes 
out of the thicket together with his hosts, and settles down in 
particular seats prepared for them. The inhabitants of that region 
prepare for them cooked rice, and bring it to them on leaves. After 
having eaten it they return into the thicket, but in case they are 
neglected, this would be the ruin of the country, as they are not only 
numerous but also savage and aggressive. According to the popular 
belief, they are a race of men changed into monkeys on account of 
the help which they had afforded to Rama when making war against 
the demons; he is believed to have bequeathed those villages to them 
as a legacy. When a man happens to fall in with them, and he 
recites to them the poetry of Rama.and pronounces the incantations 
of Rama, they will quietly listen to him; they will even lead on the 
right path him who has gone astray and give him meat and drink. At 
all events, thus the matter stands according to popular belief. 

The eastern islands in this ocean, which are nearer to China than 
to India, are the islands of the Zabaj, called by the Hindus Suvama- 

dvipa, i.e. the gold islands. The western 
Isl ^l in t ^ e e * n ^' ari islands in this ocean are ■ those of the 

Zanj (Negroes), and those in the middle 
are the islands Ramm and the Diva islands (Malediva, Laccadiva), to 
which belong also the Kumair islands. It is peculiar to the Diva 
islands that they rise slowly; first there appears a sandy tract above 
the surface of the ocean; it rises more and more and extends in all 
directions, till at last it becomes a firm soil, whilst at the same time 
another island falls into decay and melts away, finally is submerged 
and disappears in the ocean. As soon as the inhabitants become 
aware of this process, they search for a new island of increasing 
fertility, transport there their cocoanut palms, date palms, cereals, 
and household goods, and emigrate to it. These islands are, 
according to their products, divided into two classes, the Diva-kudha, 
i.e. the Diva of the kauri-shells, because there they gather kauri- 
shells from the branches of the cocoanut palms which they plant in 
the sea, and Divakanbar, i.e. the Diva of the cords twisted from 
cocoanut fibres, and used for fastening together the planks of the 

... In former times there were pearl-banks in the bay of Sarandib 
(Ceylon), but at present they have been abandoned. Since the 
Sarandib pearls have disappeared, other pearls have been found at 
Sufala in the country of the Zanj, so that people say the pearls of 


India by Al-Biruni 

Sarandib have migrated to Sufala. 

India has the tropical rains in summer, which is called varshakala, 
and these rains are the more copious and last the longer the more 

northward the situation of a province of 
On the rainfall in India • India is, and the less it is intersected by 

ranges of mountains. The people of 
Multan used to tell me that they have no varshakala, but the more 
northern provinces nearer the mountains have the varshakala. In 
Bhatal and Indravedi it begins with the month of Ashadha, and it 
rains continually for four months as though water-buckets were 
poured out. In provinces still farther northward, round the mountains 
of Kashmir up to the peak of Judari between Dunpur and Barshawar, 
copious rain falls during two and a half months, beginning with the 
month Sravana. However, on the other side of this peak there is no 
« rainfall; for the clouds in the north are very heavy, and do not rise 
much above the surface. When, then, they reach the mountains, the 
mountain-sides strike against them, and the clouds are pressed like 
olives or grapes, in consequence of which the rain pours down, and 
the clouds never pass beyond the mountains. Therefore, Kashmir 
has no varshakala^ but continual snowfall during two and a half 
months, beginning with Magha, and shortly after the middle of 
Caitra continual rain sets in for a few days, melting the snow and 
cleansing the earth. This rule seldom has an exception; however, 
certain amount of extraordinary meteorological occurrences is 
peculiar to every province of India. 


On The Names Of The Planets, The Signs Of 
The Zodiac, The Lunar Stations, And Related 


We have already mentioned, near the beginning of the book that the 
language of the Hindus is extremely rich in nouns, both original and 
derivative, so that in some instances they call one thing by a 
multitude of different names. So I have heard them saying that they 
have a thousand names all meaning sun; and no doubt, each planet 
has quite as many, or nearly as many names, since they could not do 
with less (for the purposes of versification). 

The names of the week-days are the best known names of the 
planets connected with the word barn, which follows after the 

planet’s name, as in Persian the word 
The names of the shambih follows after the number of the 

week-day ( dushambih, sihshambih, & c.). 

So tney say: 

Aditya barn, i.e. Sunday. Brihaspati barn, i.e. Thursday. 
Soma barn i.e. Monday. Sukra barn, i.e. Friday. 

Manga la bara, i.e. Tuesday. Sanaiscara barn, i.e. Saturday. 

Budha bara, i.e. Wednesday. 

And thus they go on counting, beginning anew with Sunday, 


India by Al-Biruni 

Monday, & c. ... 

It is a custom of the Hindus to enumerate the planets in the order 
of the week-days. They will persist in using it in their astronomical 
handbooks, as well as in other books, and they decline to use any 
other order, though it be much more correct. 

The Greeks mark the planets with figures, to fix thereby their 
limits on the astrolabe in an easily intelligible manner, images which 

Order of the planets " 0t letterS ° f the al P habet - The 

and their notation Hindus use a similar system of abridge¬ 

ment; however, their figures are not 
images invented for the purpose, but the initial characters of the 
names of the planets, e.g. a = Aditya, or the sun; c = Candra, or the 
moon; b = Budha, or Mercury. 

The following table exhibits the commonest names of the seven 

The Planets 

Their Names in the Indian Language. 


Aditya, surya, bhanu, arka, divakara, ravi, bibata 
(?), heli. 


Soma, candra, indu, himagu, sitarasmi, himarasmi, 
sitamsu, sitadidhiti, himamayukha. 


Mangala, bhaumya, kuja, ara, vakra, avaneya, 
maheya, krurakshi (?), rakta. 


Budha, saumya, candra, jna, bodhana, vitta (?), 


Vrihaspati, guru, jiva, devejya, devapurohita, deva- 
mantrin, angiras, suri, devapita. 


Sukra, bhrigu, sita-, bhargava, asbati (?), danava- 
guru, bhriguputra, asphujit (?). 


Sanaiscara, manda, asita, kona, adityaputra, saura, 
arki, suryaputra. 

The multiplicity of names of the sun as exhibited in the previous 
table was the cause which led the theologians to assume also a 

multiplicity of suns, so that according to 
On the twelve suns them there are twelve suns, each of 

which rises in a particular month. ... 
The moon too, the companion of the sun, has many names, e.g. 
Soma, because she is lucky, and everything lucky is called somagraha, 

The Planets, Zodiac and Lunar Stations 


Names of the moon 

whilst all that is unlucky is called 
papagraha. Further, Nisesa, i.e. lord of 
the night, Nakshatranatha, i.e. lord of the 
lunar stations, Dvijesvara, i.e. lord of the Brahmins, Sitamsu, i e. having 
a cold ray, because the moon’s globe is watery, which is a blessing to 
the earth. When the solar ray meets the moon, the ray becomes as 
cool as the moon herself, then, being reflected, it iBrajates tte 
darkness, makes the night cool and extinguishes any hurtful kind of 
combustion wrought by the sun. Similarly, the moon is also caUed 
Candra, which means the left eye of Narayam, as the sun is his right 

Cy if the names of the month given in the following table differ in some 
respects from those used heretofore, the reader must know that the 
names which we have hitherto used are the vernacular or vulgar 
ones, whilst those given in this table are the classical: 

The Months 

The Lunar 

The Months 

The Lunar 








3 Krittika* 

4 Rohini 

5 Mrigasirsha* 

6 Ardra 

7 Punarvasu 

8 Pushya* 

9 Aslesha 

10 Magha* 

11 Purva-phalguni* 

12 Uttara-phalguni 

13 Hasta 

14 Citra* 

15 Svati 


16 Visakha* 

17 Anuradha 


18 Jyeshtha* 

19 Mula 


20 Purvashadha* 

21 Uttarashadha 


22 Sravana* 

23 Dhanishta 


24 Satabhishaj 

25 Purva-bhadra- 

26 Uttara-bhadra- 


27 Revati 

1 Asvini* 

2 Bharani 

The signs or tne zouiac nave iiamvo i- ° 

which they represent, and which are the same among the Hmdusas 

among all other nations. The third sign 
On the names of j s called Mithuna, which means a pair 

signs Of the Zodiac consisting of a boy and a girl; in fact, the 

same as the Twins, the well-known image of this sign. 


India by Al-Biruni 

[Varahamihira is quoted in regard to these signs. It is pointed out 
that besides the common names Varahamihira also mentions 
‘certain Indian names of the signs which are not generally known’. A 
consolidated table showing both these sets of names is given. 
Pp. 219-20.] 


On The Brahmanda 

Brahmanda means the-egg of Brahman, and applies in reality to the 
whole of heaven (aither), on account of its being round, and of the 

particular kind of its motion. It applies 
The egg of Brahman, its com- £ven to t j, e whole world, insofar as it is 
ing forth from the water divided into an upper and an under part. 

When they enumerate the heavens, they call the sum of them 
Brahmanda. The Hindus, however, are devoid of training in 
astronomy, and have no correct astronomical notions. In conse¬ 
quence, they believe that the earth is at rest, more particularly as 
they when describing the bliss of paradise as something like world y 
happiness, make the earth the dwelling-place of the different classes 
of gods, angels, &c., to whom they attribute locomotion from the 
upper worlds to the lower. 

According to the enigmatic expressions of their tradition, the 
water was before every other thing, and it filled the space of the 
whole world. This was, as I understand them, at the beginning of the 
day of the soul (purmhahoratra, p. 153), and the beginning of 
formation and combination. Further, they say the water was rolling 
and foaming. Then something white came forth from the water, of 
which the Creator created the egg of Brahman. Now, according to 


India by Al-Biruni 

some, the egg broke; Brahman came forth from it, the one half 
became the heaven, the other the earth, and the broken bits between 
the two halves became the rains. If they said mountains instead of 
rains, the matter would be somewhat more plausible. According to 
others, God spoke to Brahman: “I create an egg, which I make for 
thy dwelling in it.” He had created it of the above mentioned foam of 
the water, but when the water sank and was absorbed, the egg broke 
into two halves. ... 

The theory of the Hindus, that the water existed before all 

creation, rests on this, that it is the cause of the cohesion of the atoms 

of everything, the cause of the growing 

Water the first element of Q f everything, and of the duration of life 
creation. The egg of Brahman . . ,, . . 

broken in two halves in every animated being. Thus the water 

is an instrument in the hand of the 

Creator when he wants to create something out of matter. ... 

The theory of the division of the egg into two halves proves that its 
originator was the contrary of a scientific man, one who did not 
know that the heaven comprehends the earth, as the shell of the egg 
of Brahman comprehends its yolk. He imagined the earth to be 
below and the heaven in only one of the six directions from the earth, 
i.e. above it. If he had known the truth, he might have spared himself 
the theory of the breaking of the egg. However, he wished by his 
theory to describe one half of the egg as spread out for the earth, and 
The other half as placed upon it for cupola, trying to outvie Ptolemy 
in the planispheric representation of a globe, but without success. 

[The views of several Indian writers—Brahmagupta, Pulisa, 
Balabhadra and Aryabhatta—are quoted, and criticised. 
Pp. 223-27.] 


Descriptions Of Earth And Heaven According 
To The Religious Views Of The Hindus, 
Based Upon Their Traditional Literature 

The people of whom we have spoken in the preceding chapter, think 
that the earths are seven like seven covers one above the other, and 

the upper one they divide into seven 
On the seven earths parts, differing from our astronomers, 

who divide it into klirnatia, and from the 

Persians, who divide it into Kishvar. We shall afterwards give a clear 
explanation of their theories derived from the first authorities of their 
religious law, to expose the matter to fair criticism. If something in it 
appears strange to us, so as to require a commentary, or if we 
perceive some coincidence with others, even if both parties missed 
the mark, we shall simply put the case before the reader, not with the 
intention of attacking or reviling the Hindus, but solely in order to 
sharpen the minds of those who study these theories. 

They do not differ among themselves as to the number of earths 
nor as to the number of the parts of the upper earth, but they differ 

regarding their names and the order of 
Differences in the sequence these names. I am inclined to derive this 

of the earths explained as difference from the great verbosity of 

resulting from the copiousness _ , u * 

of the language their language, for they call one and the 


India by Al-Biruni 

same thing by a multitude of names. For instance, they call the sun 
by a thousand different names according to their own statement, just 
as the Arabs call the lion by nearly as many. Some of these names 
are original, while others are derived from the changing condi¬ 
tions of his life or his actions and faculties. The Hindus and 
their like boast of this copiousness, whilst in reality it is one of 
the greatest faults of the language. For it is the task of language 
to give a name to everything in creation and to its effects, a name 
based on general consent, so that everybody, when hearing this 
name pronounced by another man, understands what he means. If 
therefore one and the same name or word means a variety of 
things, it betrays a defect of the language and compels the hearer 
to ask the speaker what he means by the word. And thus the word in 
question must be dropped in order to be replaced either by a similar 
one of a sufficiently clear meaning, or by an epithet describing what 
is really meant. If one and the same thing is called by many names, 
and this is not occasioned by the fact that every tribe or class of 
people uses a separate one of them, and if, in fact, one single name 
would be sufficient, all the other names save this one are to be 
classified as mere nonsense, as a means of keeping people in the 
dark, and throwing an air of mystery about the subject. And in any 
case this copiousness offers painful difficulties to those who want to 
learn the whole of the language, for it is entirely useless, and only 
results in a sheer waste of time. 

Frequently it has crossed my mind that the authors of books and 
the transmitters of tradition have an aversion to mentioning the 
earths in a definite arrangement, and limit themselves to mentioning 
their names, or that the copyists of the books have arbitrarily altered 
the text. For those men who explained and translated the text to me 
were well versed in the language, and were not known as persons 
who would commit a wanton fraud. 

The following table exhibits the names of the earths, as far as I 
know them. We rely chiefly on that list, which has been taken from 
_ the Aditya-Purana, because it follows a 

to the Aditya-Purana^- certain rule, combining every single 

earth and heaven with a single member 
of the members of the sun. The heavens are combined with the 
members from the skull to the womb, the earths with the members 
from the navel to the foot. This mode of comparison illustrates their 
sequence and preserves it from confusion:— 

Earth and Heaven According to Hindus 








i i 


s a a 

cd ^ x 

^ -Jjj X 


CO w 




















B I 
a I 















































£ *! 
OS es 

Jj ^ 


0 S 

s ^ 



















-rt <L> 

C g 

D J9 












NH 1—5 HH 

HH S Ul 

VII. The feet Rasatala. Jagara (?) Patala. Suvarna-vama, the Rasatala. 

gold-coloured earth. 


India by Al-Biruni 

. . . After the earths follow the heavens, consisting of seven stories, 
one above the other. They are called loka, which means “gathering- 

. . . The names of the lokas do not differ like those of the earths. 
There is a difference of opinion only regarding their order. We 
exhibit the names of the lokas in a table similar to the former (p. 211). 

The number of 
the Heavens 

What members of the 
Sun they represent 
according to the 


Their names 
according to the 

Aditya, Vayu 
and Vishnu Pur anas 


The stomach. 



The breast. 



The mouth. 



The eyebrow. 



The forehead. 



Above the forehead. 



The skull. 


... So much about the seven earths and the seven heavens. We 
shall now speak of the division of the surface of the uppermost earth 
and of related subjects. 

Dip (dvipa) is the Indian word for island. Hence the words 
Sangaladip (Simhaladvipa), which we call Serendib, and the Dibajat 

(Maledives, Laccadives). The latter are 
Dvipas St and seas numerous islands, which become, so to 

speak, decrepit, are dissolved and flatten¬ 
ed, and finally disappear below the water, whilst at the same time 
other formations of the same kind begin to appear above the water like 
a streak of sand which continually grows and rises and extends. The 
inhabitants of the former island leave their homes, settle on the new 
one and colonise it. 

According to the religious traditions of the Hindus, the earth on 
which we live is round and surrounded by a sea. On the sea lies an 
earth like a collar, and on this earth lies again a round sea like a collar. 
The number of dry collars, called islands , is seven, and likewise that 
of the seas. The size of both dvipas and seas rises in such a 
progression that each dvipa is the double of the preceding dvipa , each 
sea the double of the preceding sea, i.e. in the progression of the 

Earth and Heaven According to Hindus 


powers of two. If the middle earth is reckoned as one, the size of all 
seven earths represented as collars is 127. If the sea surrounding the 
middle earth is counted as one, the size of all seven seas represented 
as collars is 127. The total size of both earths and seas is 254. 

[The commentator of Patanjali and the Vayu-Purana are quoted 
regarding the size of the dvipas and the seas. Also the former on the 
determining of ‘the dimension of the world’. Pp. 234-38.] 


Traditions Relating To The Pole 

The pole, in the language of the Hindus, is called dhruva, and the axis 
saiaka. The Hindus, with the exception of their astronomers, speak 

always only of one pole, the reason of 

and t°he 8 sto? orSomadatta' 6 ' which is their belief in lhe dome °f haven, 

as we have heretofore explained. 
According to Vayu-Purana, heaven revolves round the pole like a 
potter’s wheel, and the pole revolves round itself, without changing 
its own place. This revolution is finished in 30 muhurta, i.e. in one 


[Regarding the South Pole, Al-Biruni refers to a tradition about a 
king, Somadatta, who by his noble deeds had come to earn the 
Paradise, but who wanted to enter it with his body. He approached 
Rishi Vashishtha for this favour but was told that it was impossible. 
Further, he was scoffed by Vashishtha’s children. Then he went to 
Rishi Visvamitra who was pleased by him and began making a ‘new 
Paradise’ for the king. The Rishi ‘began to make the pole and the 
Great Bear in the south’, but Indra requested him not to do so. 
Visvamitra agreed on condition that Somadatta was to be admitted 
into Paradise with his body, and it was done. The Rishi thereupon 
desisted from making k a second world, but that which he had already 

Traditions Relating to the Pole 


made up to that moment remained.’ Pp. 239—40.J 

It is well known that the North Pole with us is called the Great 
Bear, the South Pole Canopus. But some of our people (Muslims) 
who do not rise above the uneducated mass, maintain that in the 
south of heaven too there is a Great Bear of the same shape as the 
northern, which revolves round the southern pole. 

Such a thing would not be impossible nor even strange, if the 
report about it came from a trustworthy man, who had made long 
sea-voyages. Certainly in southern regions stars are seen which we 
do not know in our latitudes. .. 

When Brahman wanted to create mankind, he divided himself into 
two halves, of which the. right one was called Viraj, the left one Mamt 
The latter one is the being from whom the period of time called 
Manvantara has received its name. Manu had two sons, Priyavrata 

and Uttanapada, the bow-legged king. 
The story of Dhruva The latter had a son called Dhruva, who 

was slighted by one of the wives of 
his father. On account of this, he was presented with the power to 
turn round all the stars as he pleased. He appeared in the 
Manvantara of Svayambhuva, the first of all Manvantaras, and he 
has for ever remained in his place. ... 


On Mount Meru According To The Belief Of 
The Authors Of The Puranas And Of Others 

We begin with the description of this mountain, since it is the centre 
of the dvipas and seas, and, at the same time, the centre of 

Jambu-Dvipa. Brahmagupta says: 

ea^Tnd Mount Men. “Manifold are the opinions of people 

relating to the description of the earth 
and to Mount Meru, particularly among those who study the 
Puranas and the religious literature. Some describe this mountain as 
rising above the surface of the earth to an excessive height. It is 
situated under the pole, and the stars revolve round its foot, so that 
rising and setting depends upon Meru. It is called Meru because of 
its having the faculty of doing this, and because it depends alone 
upon the influence of its head that sun and moon become visible. 
The day of the angels who inhabit Meru lasts six months, and their 
night also six months.” 

[The views of Balabhadra on this topic are criticised. Also, those 
of Aryabhatta as quoted by the former. Pp. 243-46. In regard to the 
latter Al-Biruni points out that there were two persons named 
Aryabhatta; one known as ‘Aryabhatta the elder’ and the other as 
‘Arvabhatta of Kusumpura’. Al-Biruni writes, ‘In the book of 


Mount Mem According to the Authors of the Puranas 

Aryabhatta of Kusumpura we read that the mountain Meru is in 
Himavant the cold zone, not higher than a yojana. In the translation 
however, it has been rendered so as to express that it is not higher 

than Himavant oy more than a yojana. 

This author is not identical with the elder Aryabhatta, but he 
belongs to his followers, for he quotes him and follows his example. 

I do not know which of these two names is meant by Balabhadra. 
See also Pp. 172.] 

In general, what we know of the conditions of the place ot this 
mountain we know only by ratiocination. About the mountain itself 
they have many traditions. Some give it the height of one yojana, 
others more; some consider it as quadrangular, others as an octagon. 
We shall now lay before the reader what the Rishis teach regarding 
this mountain. ... 

[Extracts from some of the Puranas and the views of the 
commentator of Patanjali are given. Pp. 247-49.] 

This is all I could find of Hindu traditions regarding Meru; and as 
I have never found a Buddhistic book, and never knew a Buddhist 

from whom I might have learned their 
Buddhistic views theories on this subject, all I relate of 

them I can only relate on the authority 
of Aleranshahri, though, according to my mind, his report has no 
claim to scientific exactness, nor is it the report of a man who has a 
scientific knowledge of the subject. According to him, the Buddhists 
believe that Meru lies between four worlds in the four cardinal 
directions; that it is square at the bottom and round at the top; that it 
has the length of 80,000 yojana, one half of which rises into heaven, 
whilst the other half goes down in the earth. That side which is next 
to our world consists of blue sapphires, which is the reason why 
heaven appears to us blue; the othci sides are of rubies, yellow and 
white gems. Thus Meru is the centre of the earth. ... 


Traditions Of The Puranas Regarding Each Of 
The Seven Dvipas 

We must ask the reader not to take any offence if he finds all the 
words and meanings which occur in the present chapter to be totally 

different from anything corresponding 
in Arabic. As for the difference of 
words, it is easily accounted for by the 
difference of languages in general; and 

Description of the Dvipas 
according to the Matsya and 
I ishnu Puranas 

as regards the difference of the meanings, we mention them only 
either in order to draw attention to an idea which might seem 
acceptable even to a Muslim, or to point out the irrational nature of a 
thing which has no foundation in itself. 

We have already spoken of the central Dvipa when describing the 
environs of the mountain in its centre. It is called Jambu-Dvipa, 

from a tree growing in it, the branches 

1. Jambu-Dvipa 

of which extend over a space of 100 
yojana. In a latter chapter, devoted to the 

description of the inhabitable world and its division, we shall finish 
the description of Jambu-Dvipa Next, however, we shall describe 
the other dvipas which surround it, following, as regards the order of 
the names, the authority of Matsya-Purana. ... 

The Puranas and the . Seven Dvipas 119 

| There follow brief descriptions of the six dvipas , based mainly on 
the Matsya and the Vishnu-Puranas. The account contains some 
mythological stories and some incredible particulars, such as the 
inhabitants of some of the dvipas living up to the ages of 3000 or 
11,000 years. In the extracts reproduced below such portions have 
been omitted. Only the geographical particulars as also those relat¬ 
ing to the social organisation of the inhabitants of the various dvipas 
have been included. Pp. 252-56.] 

. . . We shall now describe Saka-Dvipa. It has ... seven great 
rivers,one of which equals, the Ganges in purity. [In it] there are 

seven mountains adorned with jewels, 

2. Saka-Dvipa some of which are inhabited by Devas, 

others by demons. One of them is a 
golden lofty mountain, whence the clouds rise which bring us the 
rain. Another contains all the medicines. .. . 

. . . The inhabitants of the Saka-Dvipa are pious, long-lived 
beings, who can dispense with the rule of the kings, since they do not 
know envy nor ambition .. . The four colours are among them, i.e. 
the different castes, which do not intermarry nor mix with each other 
... the names of their castes are Aryaka, Kurura, Vivimas (Vivamsa), 
and Bhavin (?), and they worship Vasudeva. 

The third dvipa is Kusa-Dvipa. [It] has seven mountains contain¬ 
ing jewels, fruits, flowers, odoriferous plants and cereals ... [It] 

has seven kingdoms and innumerable 

3. Kusa-Dvipa rivers flowing to the sea, which are then 

changed by Indira into rain. To the 
greatest rivers belong Jaunu (Yamuna), which purifies all sins ... the 
inhabitants are pious, sinless people ... They worship Janardana, and 
the names ot their castes are Damin, Sushmin, Sneha, and Mandeha. 

The fourth, or Kraunca-Dvipa has ... mountains containing 
jewels, rivers which are branches of the Ganges, and kingdoms the 

people of which have a white colour and 

4. Kraunca-Dvipa are pious and pure. According to the 

Vishnu-Purana the people there live in 
one and the same place without any distinction among members of 
the community but afterwards it says that the names of their castes are 
Pushkara Pushkala. Dhanva. and Tishya (?). They worship Janardana. 

The fifth, or Salmala-Dvipa, has mountains and rivers. Its in¬ 
habitants are pure, long-lived, mild, and never angry. They never 
suffer from drought or dearth, for their food comes to them simply in 


India by Al-Biruni 

answer to their wishes, without their sowing or toiling. They do not 
require the rule of kings, since they do not know the desire for 

property. The climate of this Dvipa 
5. Salmala-Dvipa never alters in cold or heat, so they are 

not bound to protect themselves against 
either. They have no rain, but the water bubbles up for them out of 
the earth and drops down from the mountains. This is also the case 
with the following dvipas . ... 

They have beautiful faces and worship Bhagavat. They bring 
offerings to the fire... The names of their castes are Kapila, Aruna, 
Pita, and Krishna. 

The sixth, or Gomeda-Dvipa, has two great mountains, the deep- 
black Sumanas, which encompasses the greatest part of the Dvipa, 

and the Kumuda, of golden colour and 
6 Gomeda-Dvipa very lofty; the latter one contains all the 

medicines. This Dvipa has two kingdoms. 

According to the Vishnu-Parana the inhabitants are pious and 
without sin and worship Vishnu. The names of their castes are 
Mriga, Magadha, Manasa and Mandaga. The climate of this dvipa 
is so healthy and pleasant that the inhabitants of paradise now and 
then visit it on account of the fragrancy of its air. 

The seventh, or Pushkara-Dvipa, has according to Matsya-Purana 
in its eastern part the mountain Citrasala, i.e. having a variegated roof 

with horns of jewels. Its height is 
7. Pushkara-Dvipa 34,000 yojana , and its circumference 

25,000 yojana. In the west lies the 
mountain Manasa, shining like the full moon; its height is 35,000 
yojana. In the east of this dvipa are two kingdoms. ... The water 
bubbles up for them out of the earth, and drops down from the 
mountains. They have no rains and no flowing river; they know 
neither summer nor winter. They are of one kind, without any 
distinction of caste. They never suffer from dearth, and do 
not get old ... It is as if they were in a suburb of paradise... So there 
is no service, nor rule, no sin, no envy, no opposition, no debating, 
no toiling in agriculture and diligence in trading ... 

According to the Vishnu-Purana the inhabitants are equal among 
each other, not claiming any superiority. ... In this dvipa there is 
only a single mountain, called Manasottama, which rises in a round 
form on the round dvipa. From its top all other dvipas are visible, 
for its height is 50,000 yojanas, and the breadth the same. 


On The Rivers Of India, Their Sources 
And Courses 

. . . The Matsya-Purana and Vayu-Purana mention the rivers flowing in 
Jambu-Dvipa, and say that they rise in the mountains of Himavant. 

In the following table we simply 
The rivers of Europe and enumerate them without following any 

antitstxtelTsions towesT particular principle of arrangement, 

and east The reader must imagine that the 

mountains form the boundaries of India. 
The northern mountains are the snowy Himavant. In their centre lies 
Kashmir, and they are connected with the country of the Turks. This 
mountain region becomes colder and colder till the end of the 
inhabitable world and Mount Meru. Because this mountain has its 
chief extension in longitude, the rivers rising on its northside flow 
through the countries of the Turks, Tibetans, Khazars, and Slavo¬ 
nians, and fall into the sea of Jurjan (the Caspian Sea), or the sea of 
Khwarism (the Aral Sea), or the Sea Pontus (the Black Sea), or the 
northern sea of the Slavonians (the Baltic); whilst the rivers rising 
on the southern slopes flow through India and fall into the great 
ocean, some reaching it single, others combined. 

The rivers of India come either from the cold mountains in the 


India by Al-Biruni 

north or from the eastern mountains, both of which in reality form 

one and the same chain, extending 
Rivers of India towards the east, and then turning 

towards the south until they reach the 
great ocean, where parts of it penetrate into the sea at the place 
called the Dike of Rama. Of course, these mountains differ very much 
in cold and heat. 

We exhibit the names of the rivers in the following table: 

Sindh or 
the river 





Candrabhaga Biyaha to 
or the west 

Candaraha of 


to the 
east of 


















Dhutapapa Visala 

Bahudasa (!) Kausiki 




Drishadvati Tamra 











S’ipra, rises Karatoya 
in the 

and passes 



... The river Biyatta known as Jailam, from the city of this name 
on its western banks, and the river Candaraha join each other nearly 

fifty miles above Jahravar, and pass 
Rivers of the Punjab along west of Multan. 

The river Biyaha flows east of Multan, and joins afterwards the 
Biyatta and Candaraha. 

The river Irava is joined by the river Kaj, which rises in Nagarkot 
in the mountains of Bhatul. Thereupon follows as the fifth the river 

The Rivers of India 


Shatladar (Satlej). 

After these five rivers have united below Multan at a place called 
Pancanada, i.e. the meeting place of the five rivers, they form an 
enormous watercourse. In flood-times it sometimes swells to such a 
degree as to cover nearly a space of ten farsakh, and to rise above the 
tree of the plains, so that afterwards the rubbish carried by the floods 
is found in their highest branches like birds-nests. 

The Muslims call the river, after it has passed the Sindhi city 
Aror, as a united stream, the river of Mihran Thus it extends, flowing 
straight on, becoming broader and broader, and gaining in purity of 
water, enclosing in its course places like islands, until it reaches 
Almansura, situated between several of its arms, and flows into the 
ocean at two places, near the city Loharani, and more eastward in 
the province of Kacch at a place called Sindhu-sagara, i.e. the Sindh 
Sea. . .. 

The river Sarsati falls into the sea at the distance of a bowshot east 
of Somanath. 

The river Jaun joins the Ganges below Kanoj, which lies west of 
it. The united stream falls into the great ocean neat Gangasagara. 

Between the mouths of the rivers 
Various rivers of India Sarsati and Ganges is the mouth of the 

river Narmada, which descends from 
the eastern mountains, takes its course in a south-western direction, 
and falls into the sea near the town Bahroj, nearly sixty yojana east of 

Behind the Ganges flow the rivers Rahab and Kawini, which join 
the river Sarwa near the city of Bari. ... 

The river Ganges, which is the middle and main stream, flows 
through the Gandharva, the musicians, Kimnara, Yakshas, 
Rakshasa, Vidyadhara, Uraga, i.e. those who creep on their breasts, 
the serpents, Kalapagrama, i.e. the city of the most virtuous, 
Kimpurusha, Khasa (?), the mountaineers, Kirata, Pulinda, the 
hunters in the plains, robbers, Kuru, Bharata, Pancala, Kaushka (?), 
Matsya, Magadha, Brahmottara, and Tamalipta. These are the good 
and bad beings through whose territories the Ganges flows. 
Afterwards it enters into branches of the mountain Vindhya, where 
the elephants live, and then it falls into the southern ocean. 

Of the eastern Ganges arms, the Hradini flows through the 
countries Nishaba, Upakana, Dhivara, Prishaka, Nilamukha, 
Kikara, Ushtrakarna, i.e. people whose lips are turned like their 


India by Al-Biruni 

ears, Kirata, Kalidara, Vivama, i.e. the colourless people, so called 
on account of their intense blackness, Kushikana, and Svargabhumi, 
i.e. a country like Paradise. Finally it falls into the eastern ocean.... 


On The Shape Of Heaven And Earth According 
To The Hindu Astronomers 

This and similar questions have received at the hands of the Hindus 
a treatment and solution totally different from that which they have 

received among us Muslims. The 
The Koran, a certain sentences of the Koran on these and 

all d resea r rch aSIS ° f other subjects necessary for man to 

know are not such as to require a 
strained interpretation in order to become positive certainties in the 
minds of the hearers, and the same may be said regarding the holy 
codes revealed before the Koran. The sentences of the Koran on the 
subjects necessary for man to know are in perfect harmony with the 
other religious codes, and at the same time they are perfectly clear, 
without any ambiguity. . . . 

The religious books of the Hindus and their codes of tradition, the 
Puranas, contain sentences about the shape of the world which stand 

in direct opposition to scientific truth as 
known to their astronomers. By these 
books people are guided in fulfilling the 
rites of their religion, and by means of them the great mass of the 
nation have been wheedled into a predilection for astronomical 

Veneration of the Hindus 
for their astronomers 


India by Al-Biruni 

calculation and astrological predictions and warnings. The con¬ 
sequence is, that they show much affection to their astronomers 
declaring that they are excellent men, that it is a good omen to meet 
them, and firmly believing that all of them come into Paradise and 

none into hell. For this the astronomers 
requite them by accepting their popular 
notions as truth, by conforming them¬ 
selves to them, however far from truth 

Astronomers admit 
popular notions into 
their doctrines 

most of them may be, and by presenting them with such spiritual 
stuff as they stand in need of. This is the reason why the two 
theories, the vulgar and the scientific, have become intermingled in 
the course of time, why the doctrines of the astronomers have been 
disturbed and confused, in particular the doctrines of those 
authors—and they are the majority—who simply copy their 
predecessors, who take the basis of their science from tradition and 
do not make them the objects of independent scientific research. 

We shall now explain the views of Hindu astronomers regarding 
the present subject, viz. the shape of heaven and earth. According to 

them, heaven as well as the whole world 

General observations on the 
rotundity of the earth, on 
Meru and Vadavamukha 

is round, and the earth has a globular 
shape, the northern half being dry land, 
the southern half being covered with 

water. The dimension of the earth is larger according to them than it 
is according to the Greeks and modem observations, and in their 
calculations to find this dimension they have entirely given up any 
mention of the traditional seas and Dvipas, and of the enormous sums 
of yojana attributed to each of them. The astronomers follow the 
theologians in everything which does not encroach upon their 
science, e.g. they adopt the theory of Mount Mem being under the 
North Pole, and that of the island Vadavamukha lying under the 
South Pole. Now, it is entirely irrelevant whether Mem is there or 
not, as it is only required for the explanation of the particular mill¬ 
like rotation, which is necessitated by the fact that to each spot on 
the plane of the earth corresponds a spot in the sky as its zenith. 
Also, the fable of the southern island Vadavamukha does no harm 
to their science, although it is possible nay, even likely, that each pair 
of quarters of the earth forms a coherent, uninterrupted unity, the one 
as a continent, the other as an ocean (and that in reality there is no 
such island under the South Pole). Such a disposition of the earth is 
required by the law of gravitation, for according to them the earth is 


The Shape of Heaven and Earth 

in the centre of the universe, and everything heavy gravitates 
towards it. Evidently on account of this law of gravitation they 
consider heaven, too, as having a globular shape. 

We shall now exhibit the opinions of the Hindu astronomers on 
this subject according to our translation of their works. In case, 
however, one word or other in our translation should be used in a 
meaning different from that which it generally has in our sciences, 
we ask the reader to consider only the original meaning of the word 
(not the technical one), for this only is meant. 

[Extracts from Pulisa’s Siddhanta and Brahmagupta’s Brahma- 
Siddhanta are given. Aryabhatta, Vasishta and Lata are also referred 
to. Pp. 266-69.] 

These are the words of Hindu astronomers regarding the globular 
shape of heaven and earth, and what is between them, and regarding 

• /I l 1 A 1 1- _ — la M a A ^ A/1 V M ^ ^ O 

the fact that the earth, situated in the 
centre of the globe, is only of a small 
size in comparison with the visible part 
of heaven. These thoughts are the 
elements of astronomy as contained in 
the first chapter of Ptolemy’s Almagest, 

Considerations regarding 
the rotundity of the earth, 
the balance of gravity 

between the northern and 
southern halves, and the 
attraction of gravitation 

and of similar books, though they are not worked out in that 
scientific form in which we are accustomed to give them. 


for the earth is more heavy than the water, and the water is fluid like 
the air. The globular form must be to the earth a physical necessity, 
as long as it does not, by the order of God, take another form. 
Therefore the earth could not move towards the north, nor the water 
move towards the south, and in consequence one whole half is not 
terra firma, nor the other half water, unless we suppose that the terra 
firma half be hollow. As far as our observations, based on induction, 
goes, the terra firma must be in one of the two northern quarters, and 
therefore we guess that the same is the case on the adjacent quarter. 
We admit the possibility of the existence of the island Vadava- 
mukha, but we do not maintain it, since all we know of it and of Meru 
is exclusively based on tradition. 

The equatorial line does not, in the quarter of the earth known to 
us, represent a boundary between terra firma and the ocean. For in 
certain places the continent protrudes far into the ocean, so as to 
pass beyond the equator, e.g. the plains of the negroes in the west. 


India by Al-Biruni 

which protrude far towards the south, even beyond the mountains of 
the moon and the sources of the Nile, in fact, into regions which we do 
not exactly know. For that continent is desert and impassable, and 
likewise the sea behind Siifala of the Zanj is unnavigable. No ship 
which ventured to go there has ever returned to relate what it had 

Also a great part of India above the province of Sindh deeply 
protrudes far towards the south, and seems even to pass beyond the 

In the midst between both lie Arabia and Yemen, but they do not 
gc so far south as to cross the equator. 

Further, as the terra firma stretches far out into the ocean, thus the 
ocean too penetrates into terra firma, breaking into it in various 
places, and forming bays and gulfs. For instance, the sea extends as 
a tongue along the west side of Arabia as far as the neighbourhood of 
Central Syria. It is narrowest near Kulzum, whence it is also called 
the Sea of Kulzum. 

Another and still larger arm of the sea exists east of Arabia, the 
so-called Persian Sea. Between India and China, also, the sea forms a 
great curve towards the north. 

Hence it is evident that the coast-line of these countries does not 
correspond to the equator, nor keep an invariable distance from it. 


and the explanation relating to the four cities will follow in its proper 

The difference of the times which has been remarked is one of the 
results of the rotundity of the earth, and of its occupying the centre of 
the globe. And if they attribute to the earth, though it be round, 
inhabitants—for cities cannot be imagined without inhabitants—the 
existence of men on earth is accounted for by the attraction of 
everything heavy towards its centre, i.e. the middle of the world. 

Much to the same effect are the expressions of Vayu-Purana, viz. 
that noon in Amaravati is sunrise in Vaivasvata, midnight in Sukha, 
and sunset in Vibha. ... 

In the definition of what is low the Hindus agree with us, viz. that it 
is the centre of the world, but their expressions on this head are subtle, 
„ . . . ., . more particularly as this is one of the 

mihira on the law of gravitation Questions which is only handled 

by the most eminent of their scholars. 


The Shape of Heaven and Earth 

So Brahmagupta says: “Scholars have declared that the globe of 
the earth is in the midst of heaven, and that Mount Meru, the home 
of the Devas, as well as Vadavamukha below, is the home of their 
opponents; the Daitya and Danava belong to it. But this below is 
according to them only a relative one. Disregarding this, we say that 
the earth on all its sides is the same; all people on earth stand upright, 
and all heavy things fall down to the earth by a law of nature, for it is 
the nature of the earth to attract and to keep things, as it is the nature 
of water to flow, that of fire to bum, and that of the wind to set in 
motion. If a thing wants to go deeper down than the earth, let it try. 
The earth is the only low thing, and seeds always return to it, in 
whatever direction you may throw them away, and never rise 
upwards from the earth.” 

Varahamihira says: “Mountains, seas, rivers, trees, cities, men, 
and angels, all are around the globe of the earth. And if Yamakoti 
and Rum are opposite to each other, one could not say that the one is 
low in its relation to the other, since the low does not exist. How could 
one say of one place of the earth that it is low, as it is in every 
particular identical with any other place on earth, and one place 
could as littl efall as any other.... For the earth attracts that which is 
upon her, for it is the below towards all directions, and heaven is the 
above towards all directions.” 

[Balabhadra’s definition of the extent which may be reached by 
the human eye is critically examined; also Pulisa’s views on the axis 
of the earth. Pp. 274-77.| 


On The First Two Motions Of The Universe 
(That From East To West According To 
Ancient Astronomers And The Precession Of 
The Equinoxes), Both According To Hindu 
Astronomers And The Authors Of The Puranas 

The astronomers of the Hindus hold on this subject mosdy the same 
views as ourselves. We shall give quotations from them, but shall at 
once confess that that which we are able to give is very scanty 

[Extracts are given from the works of Pulisa, Brahmagupta and 
Balabhadra. Pp. 278-80.] 

This is all I have read in Indian books on the subjects. 

Their speaking of the wind as the motor {supra) has, I think, only 
the purpose of bringing the subject near to the understanding of 
people and to facilitate its study; for people see with their own eyes 

that the wind, when blowing against 
instruments with wings and toys of this 
kind, puts them into motion. But as 
soon as they come to speak of the first 

Criticisms of the author. The 
wind as the motor of the 

mover (God), they at once give up any comparison with the natural 

First Two Motions of the Universe 


wind, which in all its phases is determined by certain causes. For 
though it puts things into motion, the moving is not its essence, and 
besides, it cannot move without being in contact with something, 
because the wind is a body, and is acted upon by external influences 
or means, its motion being commensurate with their force. 

Their saying that the wind does not rest, simply means that the 
moving power works perpetually, and does not imply rest and 
motion such as are proper to bodies. Further, their saying that it does 
not slacken means that it is free from all kinds of accidents; for 
slackening and weakening only occur in such bodies or beings which are 
composed of elements of conflicting qualities. 

The expression that the two poles keep the sphere of the fixed stars 

means that they keep or preserve it in 
Se sphere° po * es * tee P in & its normal state of motion, not that 

they keep or preserve it from falling 


[Al-Biruni critically examines the views of Balabhadra and 
Brahmagupta, as also those contained in the Puranas, on the follow¬ 
ing points: (a) the relative nature of time, (b) the fixed stars, (c) the 
direction of the heavenly motion, as seen from the different point of 
the earth. Pp. 281—88.] 


On The Definition Of The Ten Directions 

The extension of bodies in space is in three directions: length, breadth, 
and depth or height The path of any real direction, not an imaginary 
one, is limited; therefore the lines representing these three paths are 
limited, and their six end-points or limits are the directions. If you 
imagine an animal in the centre of these lines, i.e. where they cut 
each other, which turns its face towards one of them, the directions 
with relation to the animal are before, behind, right, left, above, and below. 

If these directions are used in relation to die world, they acquire 
new names. As the rising and setting of the heavenly bodies depend 
upon the horizon and the first motion becomes apparent by the 
horizon, it is the most covenient to determine the directions by the 
horizon. The four directions, east, west, north, south (corresponding to 
before, behind, left, and right), are generally known, but the 
directions which lie between each two of these are less known. These 
make eight directions, and, together with above and below , which do 
not need any further explanation, ten directions. ... 

The Hindus, in giving names to the directions, have not taken any 
notice of the blowing of a wind; they simply call the four cardinal 
directions, as well as the secondary directions between them, by 
separate names. So they have eight directions in the horizontal plane, 

On the Definition of the Ten Directions 



S E 








(i.e. the 

middle country) 








North___ 7~7u 

.. _ ___ nnlf*S Ol the 

Besides mere are iwu —- 

horizontal plane, the above and below, the former being called apart, 

the second Adhas and Tala. ... . c . k 

The Hindus can never speak of anything, be it an object of the 

intellect or of imagination, without representing it as JpeRon'^ 
tion, and individual. They at once marry him make him celebrate 
marriage, make his wife become pregnant and give birth to some- 
thing So, too, in this case. The Vishnu-Dharma relates that Atn ,^ the 
star who rules the stars of the Great Bear, married ^ 
represented as one person, though they are eight in number, and tha 

from her the moon was bom. ... . . . . e 

According to their custom, the Hindus attribute certain dommants 

to the eight directions in the horizontal plane, which we exhibit m 

following table: ____ 

Their Dominants The Directions Their Dominants 

The Directions 




The Fire 




Yam a 









Definition Of The Inhabitable Earth According 
To The Hindus 

In the book of the Rishi Bhuvanakosa we read that the inhabitable 
world stretches from Himavant towards the south, and is called 

The Rishi Bhuvanakosa Bhartavarsha, so called from a man, 

on the inhabitable world Bharata, who ruled over them and 

provided for them. The inhabitants of 
this oikoumene are those to whom alone reward and punishment in 
another life are destined. It is divided into nine parts, called 
Navakhanda-prathama, i.e. the primary nine parts. Between each two 
parts there is a sea, which they traverse from one khanda to the other. 
The breadth of the inhabitable world from north to south is 1000 

By Himavant the author means the northern mountains, where the 
world, in consequence of the cold, ceases to be inhabitable. So all 
civilisation must of necessity be south of these mountains. 

His words, that the inhabitants are subject to reward and punish¬ 
ment, indicate that there are other people not subject to it. These 
beings he must either raise from the degree of man to that of angels, 
who, in consequence of the simplicity of the elements they are 
composed of and of the purity of their nature, never disobey a divine 

Definition of the Inhabitable Earth 


order, being always willing to worship; or he must degrade them to 
the degree of irrational animals. According to him, therefore, there 
are no human beings outside the oikoumene (i.e. Bharatavarsha). 

Bharatavarsha is not India alone, as Hindus think, according to 
whom their country is the world, and their race the only race of 
mankind; for India is not traversed by an ocean separating one 
khanda from the other. Further, they do not identify these khanda with 
the dvipas. for the author says that on those seas people pass from 
one shore to the other. Further, it follows from his statement that all 
the inhabitants of the earth and the Hindus are subject to reward and 
punishment, that they are one great religious community. 

The nine parts are called Prathama, i.e. primary ones, because they 
also divide India alone into nine parts. So the division of the oikoumene 
is a primary one, but the division of Bharatavarsha a secondary one. 
Besides, there is still a third division into nine parts, as their 
astrologers divide each country into nine parts when they try to 
find the lucky and unlucky places in it. .. . 

Further, the Vayu-Purana mentions the cities and countries which 
lie in each direction. We shall exhibit them in tables, together with 

similar information from other sources, for this method renders the 
study of the subject easier than any other. 

Here follows a diagram representing the division of Bharatavarsha 
into nine parts. 



T qmnwama 


West Saumya 

Indradvipa or 

Madhyadesa, i.e. Kaserumat East 

the middle country 




We have already heretofore mentioned that that part of the earth 
in which the oikoumene lies resembles a tortoise, because its borders 

are round, because it rises above the 
On the figure Kurma-cakra water, and is surrounded by the water, 

and because it has a globular convexity 
on its surface. However, there is a possibility that the origin of the 


India by Al-Biruni 

name is this, that their astronomers and astrologers divide the 
directions according to the lunar stations. Therefore the country, 
too, is divided according to the lunar stations, and the figure which 
represents this division is similar to a tortoise. Therefore it is called 
Kurma-cakra, i.e. the tortoise-circle or the tortoise-shape. . .. 

Varahamihira calls each of the Nava-khanda a varga. He says: “By 
them (the vargas) Bharatavarsha, i.e. half of the world, is divided into 

nine parts, the central one, the eastern, 

according to Varahamihira e * c> Then he passes to the south, and 

thus round the whole horizon. That he 
understands by Bharatavarsha India alone is indicated by his saying 
that each varga has a region, the king of which is killed when some 
mishap befalls it. So belong 
To the 1st or central varga, the region Pancala. 

2d varga, . ” Magadha. 

3d varga, . ” Kalinga. 

4th varga, . •’ Avanti, i.e. 


5th varga, . ” Ananta. 

6th varga, . ” Sindhu & Sauvira. 

7th varga, . ” Harahaura. 

8th varga, . ” Madura. 

9th varga, - . ” Kulinda. 

All these countries are parts of India proper. 

Most of the names of countries under which they appear in this 
context are not those by which they are now generally known 

Utpala, a native of Kashmir, says in his 

geogrTphical'^names commentary on the book Samhita regar- 

ding this subject: “the names of coun¬ 
tries change, and particularly in th eyugas. So Multan was originally 
called Kasyapapura, then Hamsapura, then Bagapura, then 
Sambhapura, and then Mulashthana, i.e. the original place, for mula 
means root, origin, and tana means place.” 

A yuga is a long space of time, but names change rapidly, when, 
for instance, a foreign nation with a different language occupies a 
country. Their tongues frequently mangle the words, and thus 
transfer them into their own language, as is, e.g. the custom of the 
Greeks. Either they keep the original meaning of the names, and try 
a sort of translation, but then they undergo certain changes. So the 
city of Shash, which has its name from the Turkish language, where 

Definition of the Inhabitable Earth 


it is called Tash-kand, i.e. stone-city , is called stone-tower in the book 
Geographia. In this way new names spring up as translations of older 
ones. Or, secondly, the barbarians adopt and keep the local names, 
but with such sounds and in such forms as are adapted to their 
tongues, as the Arabs do in Arabising foreign names, which become 
disfigured in their mouth: e.g. Bushahg they call in their books Fusani 
and Sakilkand they call in their revenue-books Farfaza (sic). However, 
what is more curious and strange is this, that sometimes one and the 
same language changes in the mouth of the same people who speak it, 
in consequence of which strange and uncouth forms of words spring up, 
not intelligible save to him who discards every rule of the language. 
And such changes are brought about in few years, without there 
being any stringent cause or necessity for it. Of course, in all of this 
the Hindus are actuated by the desire to have as many names as 
possible, and to practise on them the rules and arts of their 
etymology, and they glory in the enormous copiQusness of their 
language which they obtain by such means. 

The following names of countries, which we have taken from the 
Vayu-Purana, are arranged according to the four directions, whilst the 
names taken from the Samhita are arranged according to the eight 
directions. All these names are of that kind which we have here 
described (i.e. they are not the names now in general use). # ... 
[The names of the ‘countries’ or regions are listed. Pp. 299-302.] 
Hindu astronomers determine the longitude of the inhabitable 
world by Lanka, which lies in its centre on the equator, whilst 

Yamakoti lies on its east, Romaka on its 
2Td S^ddfapurl 3 " 1 ^ 011 ’ west, and Siddhapura on that part of the 

equator which is diametrically opposed 
to Lanka. Their remarks on the rising and setting of the heavenly 
bodies show that Yamakoti and Rum are distant from each other by 
half a circle. It seems that they assign the countries of the West (i.e. 
North Africa) to Rum or the Roman Empire, because the Rum or 
Byzantine Greeks occupy the opposite shores of the same sea (the 
Mediterranean); for the Roman Empire has much northern latitude 
and penetrates high into the north. No part of it stretches far 
southward, and, of course, nowhere does it reach the equator, as the 
Hindus say with regard to Romaka. 

We shall here speak no more of Lanka (as we are going to treat of 
it in a separate chapter). Yamakoti is, according to Yakub 33 and 
Alfazari, the country where is the city Tara within a sea. I have not 


India by Al-Biruni 

found the slightest trace of this name in Indian literature. As koti 
means castle and Yama is the angel of death, the word reminds me of 
Kangdiz, which, according to the Persians, had been built by 
Kaika’us or Jam in the most remote east, behind the sea. Kaikhusrau 
traversed the sea to Kangdiz when following the traces of Afrasiab 
the Turk, and there he went at the time of his anchorite life and 
expatriation. For diz means in Persian castle, as koti in the Indian 
language, Abu-Ma’shar of Balkh has based his geographical canon 
on Kangdiz as the 0° of longitude or first meridian. 

How the Hindus came to suppose the existence of Siddhapura I 
do not know, for they believe, like ourselves, that behind the 
inhabited half-circle there is nothing but unnavigable seas. 

In what way the Hindus determine the latitude of a place has not 
come to our knowledge. That the longitude of the inhabitable world 

is a half-circle is a far-spread theory 

JheVI?s e t ri meridra f n Ujain am° n g their astronomers; they differ 

(from Western astronomers) only as to 
the point which is to be its beginning. If we explain the theory of the 
Hindus as far as we understand it, their beginning of longitude is 
Ujain, which they consider as the eastern limit of one quarter (of the 
oikoument), whilst the limit of the second quarter lies in the west at 
some distance from the end of civilisation, as we shall hereafter 
explain in the chapter about the difference of the longitudes of two 

The theory of the Western astronomers on this point is a 
double one. Some adopt the beginning of longitude the shore of the 
(Atlantic) ocean.... Now, according to this theory, things have 
been united which have no connection with each other. So 
Shapurkan and Ujain are placed on the same meridian. ... Others 
adopt the Islands of Happy Ones as the beginning of longitude. ... 
Both these theories are totally different from that of the Hindus.... 

If I, by the grace of God, shall live long enough, I shall devote a 
special treatise to the longitude of Nishapur where this subject shall 
be thoroughly inquired into. 


On Lanka, Or The Cupola Of The Earth 

The midst of the inhabitable world, of its longitudinal extension from 
east to west on the equator, is by the astronomers (of the Muslims) 

called the Cupola of the earth, and the 

On the meaning of the . . , , . 

term cupola of the earth • g reat Circle wh *C h Passes through the 

pole and this point of the equator is 

called the meridian of the cupola. We must, however, observe that 

whatever may be the natural form of the earth, there is no place on it 

which to the exclusion of others deserves the name of a cupola; that 

this term is only a metaphorical one to denote a point from which the 

two ends of the inhabitable world in east and west are equidistant, 

comparable to the top of a cupola or a tent; as all things hanging 

down from this top (tent-ropes or walls) have the same length, and 

their lower ends the same distances therefrom. But the Hindus never 

call this point by a term that in our language must be interpreted by 

cupola; they only say that Lanka is between the two ends of the 

inhabitable world and without latitude. 

The story of Rama There Ravana, the demon, fortified 

himself when he had carried off the wife 

of Rama, the son of Dasaratha. His labyrinthine fortress is called 

'Skzjfc (?), whilst in our (Muslim) countries it is called Yavanakoti 


India by Al-Biruni 

which has frequently been explained as Rome. ... 

Rama attacked Ravana after having crossed the ocean on a dyke 
of the length of 100 yojana, which he had constructed from a 
moun tain jjj a place called Setubandha, i.e. bridge of the ocean, east 
of Ceylon. He fought with him and killed him, and Rama’s brother 
killed the brother of Ravana, as is described in the story of Rama and 
Ramayana 34 . Thereupon he broke the dyke in ten different places by 

arrow-shots. . 

According to the Hindus, Lanka is the castle of the demons. It is 
30 yojana above the earth, i.e. 80 farsakh. Its length from east to west 

is 100 yojana; its breadth from north to 
On the island of Lanka south is the same as the height (i.e. 


It is on account of Lanka and the island of Vadavamukha that the 
Hindus consider the south as foreboding evil. In no work of piety do 
they direct themselves southward or walk southward. The south 
occurs only in connection with impious actions. ... 

No sailor who has traversed the ocean round the place which is 
ascribed to Lanka, and has travelled in that direction, has ever given 

such an account of it as tallies with the 
The author’s conjecture about traditions of the Hindus or resembles 
Unka and Langabalus there is „o tradition which 

makes the thing appear to us more possible (than it is according to 
the reports of the Hindus). The name Lanka, however, makes me 
think of something entirely different, viz. that the clove is called 
lavang, because it is imported from a country called Langa. According 
to the uniform report of all sailors, the ships which are .sent to this 
country land their cargo in boats, viz. ancient Western denars and 
various kinds of merchandise, striped Indian cloth, salt, and other 
usual articles of trade. These wares are deposited on the shore on 
leather sheets, each of which is marked with the name of its owner. 
Thereupon the merchants retire to their ships. On the following day 
they find the sheets covered with cloves by way of payment, little or 

much, as the natives happen to own. 

The people with whom this trade is carried on are demons accord¬ 
ing to some, savage men according to others. The Hindus who are 
the neighbours of those regions (of Lanka) believe that the small-pox 
is a wind blowing from the island of Lanka to carry off souls. 
According to one report, some men warn people beforehand of the 
blowing of this wind, and can exactly tell at what times it will reach 

On Lanka, or the Cupola of the Earth 


the different parts of the country. After the small-pox has broken out, 
they recognise from certain signs whether it is virulent or not. 
Against the virulent small-pox they use a method of treatment by 
which they destroy only one single limb of the body, but do not kill. 
They use as medicine cloves, which they give to the patient to drink, 
together with gold-dust; and, besides, the males tie the cloves, which 
are similar to date-kernels, to their necks. If these precautions are 
taken, perhaps nine people out of ten will be proof against this 

All this makes me think that the Lanka which the Hindus mention 
is identical with the clove-country Langa, though their descriptions 
do not tally. However, there is no communication kept up with the 
latter, for people say that when perchance a merchant is left behind 
on this island, there is no more trace found of him. And this my con¬ 
jecture is strengthened by the fact that, according to the book of 
Rama and Ramayana, behind the well-known country of Sindh there 
are cannibals. And, on the other hand, it is well-known among all 
seamen that cannibalism is the cause of the savagery and bestiality 
of the inhabitants of the island of Langabalus. 


On That Difference Of Various Places Which 
We Call The Difference Of Longitude 

He who aims at accuracy in this subject must try to determine 
the distance between the spheres of the meridians of the two places 

in question. Muslim astronomers reckon 
by equatorial times corresponding to the 
distance between the two meridians. 

On the Hindu method of 
determining longitude 

and begin to count from one (the western one) of the two places. The 
sum of equatorial minutes which they find is called the difference 
between the two longitudes; for they consider as the longitude of each 
place the distance of its meridian from the great circle passing through 
the pole of the equator, which has been chosen as the limit of the 
oikoumene, and for this first meridian they have chosen the western 
(not the eastern) limit of the oikoumene. It is all the same whether 
these equatorial times, whatsoever their number for each meridian 
may be, are reckoned as 360 th part of a circle, or as its 60 th part, so 
as to correspond to the day-minutes, or as farsakh or yojana. 

The Hindus employ in this subject methods which do not rest on 
the same principle as ours. They-are totally different; and howsoever 
different they are, it is perfectly clear that none of them hits the right 
mark. As we (Muslims) note for each place its longitude, the Hindus 

Difference of Various Places 


note the number of ynjanas of its distance from the meridian of Ujain. 
And the more to the west the position of a place is, the greater is the 
number of yojanas; the more to the east it is, the smaller is this 
number. They call it desantara , i.e. the difference between the places. 
Further, they multiply the desantara by the mean daily motion of the 
planet (the sun), and divide the product by 4800. Then the quotient 
represents that amount of the motion of the star which corresponds 
to the number of yojana in question, i.e. that which must be added to 
the mean place of the sun, as it has been found for moon or midnight 
of Ujain, if you want to find the longitude of the place in question. 

The number which they use as divisor (4800) is the number of the 
yojanas of the circumference of the earth, for the difference between 

the spheres of the meridians of the two 
places stands in the same relation to the 
whole circumference of the earth as the 

On the circumference 
of the earth 

mean motion of the planet (sun) from one place to the other to its 
whole daily rotation round the earth. ... 

[The observations of Pulisa and Brahmagupta on the circum¬ 
ference of the earth are critically examined; also the method of 
calculating the desantara. Aryabhatta’s views on the meridian of 
Ujain are criticised. Pp. 312-16.] 

Y'akub Ibn Tarik says in his book entitled The Composition of the 
Spheres, that the latitude of Ujain is 4 3/5 degrees but he does not 
say whether it lies in the north or the south. . . . 

On the other hand, however, all canons of the Hindus agree in 
this, that the latitude of Ujain is 24 degrees, and that the sun 
culminates over it at the time of the summer solistice. 

I myself have found that the latitude of the fortress Lauhur to be 

34° 10'_What other latitudes I have been able to observe myself, 

I shall enumerate in this place:—Ghazna 33° 35'; Kabul 33° 47 ; 
Kandi, the guard-station of the prince, 33° 55'; Dunpur 34° 20'; 
Lamghan 34° 43'; Purshavar 34° 44'; Waihind 34° 30'; Jailam 

32 a 20'; the fortress Nandna 32° 0'_Sialkot 32° 58'; Mandakka- 

kor 31° 50'; Multan 29° 40'. ... 

We ourselves have (in our travels) in their country not passed 
beyond places which we have mentioned, nor have we learned any 
more longitudes and latitudes (of places in India) from their 
literature. It is God alone who helps to reach our objects. 


On The Notions Of Duration And Time In 
General, And On The Creation Of The World 
And Its Destruction 

According to the relation of Muhammad Ibn Zakariyya Alrazi, 35 the 
most ancient philosophers of the Greeks thought that the following 

five things existed from all eternity, the 
On the notion^of time creator, the universal soul, the first hule, space 

other^phflosophers 21 ^ m the abstract, and time in the abstract On 

these things Alrazi has founded that 
theory of his, which is at the,bottom of his whole philosophy. 
Further, he distinguishes between time and duration in so far as 
number applies to the former, not to the latter; for a thing which can 
be numbered is finite, whilst duration is infinite. Similarly, 
philosophers have explained time as duration with a beginning and an 
end, and eternity as duration without beginning and end. 

According to Alrazi, those five things are necessary postulates of the 
actually existing world. For that which the senses perceive in it is the 
hulc acquiring shape by means of combination. Besides, the hule 
occupies some place, and therefore we must admit the existence of 
space. The changes apparent in the world of sense compel us to assume 
the existence of time, for some of them are earlier, others later, and 

On the Notions of Duration and Time 


the before and the afterwards , the earlier and the later, and the 
simultaneous can only be perceived by means of the notion of time, 
which is a necessary postulate of the existing world. 

Further, there are living beings in the existing world. Therefore we 
must assume the existence of the soul. Among these living beings 
there are intelligent ones, capable of carrying the arts to the highest 
perfection; and this compels us to assume the existence of a Creator, 
who is wise and intelligent, who establishes and arranges everything 
in the best possible manner, and inspires people with the force of 
intelligence for the purpose of liberation. 

On the other hand, some sophists consider eternity and time as 
one and the same thing, and declare the motion which serves to 
measure time alone to be finite. 

Another one declares eternity to be the circular motion. No doubt 
this motion is indissolubly connected with that being which moves by 
it, and which is of the most sublime nature, since it lasts for ever. 
Thereupon he rises in his argumentation from the moving being to its 
mover, and from the moving mover to the first mover who is 

This kind of research is very subtle and obscure. But for this, the 
opinions would not differ to such an extent that some people declare 
that there is no time at all, while others declare that time is an inde¬ 
pendent substance. According to Alexander of Aphrodisias, 
Aristotle gives in his book Phusike Akroasis the following argu¬ 
mentation: “Everything moving is moved by a mover", and Galenus 
says on the same subject that he could not understand the notion of 
time, much less prove it. 

The theory of the Hindus on this subject is rather poor in thought 
and very little developed. Varahamihira says in the opening of his 

book Samhita, when speaking of that 
which existed from all eternity: “It has 
been said in the ancient books that the 
first primeval thing was darkness, which is not identical with the 
black colour, but a kind of non-existence like the state of a sleeping 
person. Then God created this world for Brahman as a cupola for 
him. He made it to consist of two parts, a higher and a lower one, 
and placed the sun and moon in it." Kapila declares: “God has 
always existed, and with him the world, with all its substances and 
bodies. He, however, is a cause to the world, and rises by the 
subtlety of his nature above the gross’ nature of the world." 

The notions of Hindu 
philosophers on time 


India by Al-Biruni 

Kumbhaka says: "The primeval one is Mahabhuta , i.e. the compound 
of the five elements. Some declare that the primeval thing is time, 
others nature, and still others maintain that the director is kaunan, i.e. 

In the book Vishnu-Dhanna, Vajra speaks to Markandeya: 
“Explain to me the times;” whereupon the latter answers: “Duration 
is atmapurusha” i.e. a breath, and purusha, which means the lord of the 
universe. Thereupon, he commenced explaining to him the divisions 
of time and their dominants, just as we have propounded these things 
in detail in the proper chapters (chap, xxxiii, et seq.). 

The Hindus have divided duration into two periods, a period of 
motion, which has been determined as time, and a period of rest, which 
can be determined only in an imaginary way according to the 
analogy of that which has first been determined, the period of 
motion. The Hindus hold the eternity of the Creator to be determinable. 
not measurable, since it is infinite. We, however, cannot refrain from 
remarking that it is extremely difficult to imagine a thing which is 
determinable but not measurable, and that the whole idea is very far¬ 
fetched. We shall here communicate so much as will suffice for the 
reader of the opinions of the Hindus on this subject, as far as we 
know them. 

The common notion of the Hindus regarding creation is a popular 
one, for as we have already mentioned, they believe matter to be 

eternal. Therefore, they do not, by the 

The Day of Brahman a word creation understand a formation of 

period of creation, the Night some thine out of nothing. They mean by 

of Brahman a period of . , 1, ‘ i • 

non-creation creation only the working with a piece 

of Clay, working out various combina¬ 
tions and figures in it, and making such arrangements with it as will 
lead to certain ends and aims which are potentially in it. For this 
reason they attribute the creation to angels and demons, nay, even to 
human beings, who create either because they carry out some legal 
obligation which afterwards proves beneficial for the creation, or 
because they intend to allay their passions after having become 
envious and ambitious. So, for instance, they relate that Visvamitra, 
the Rishi, created the buffaloes for this purpose, that mankind should 
enjoy all the good and useful things which they afford. . . 

Here in this context we meet with a duration of time which 
Muslim authors, following the example of the Hindus, call the years of 
the world. People think that at their beginnings and endings creation 

On the Notions of Duration and Time 


and destruction take place as kinds of new formations. This, 
however, is not the belief of the people at large. According to them, 
this duration is a day of Brahman and a consecutive night of 
rfrahman; for Brahman is entrusted with creating. Further, the 
coming into existence is a motion in that which grows out of 
something different from itself, and the most apparent of the causes 
of this motion are the meteoric motors, i.e. the stars. These, 
however, will never exercise regular influences on the world below 
them unless they move and change their shapes in every direction (= 
their aspects). Therefore the coming into existence is limited to the 
day of Brahman, because in it only, as the Hindus believe, the stars are 
moving and their spheres revolving according to their pre- 
established order, and in consequence the process of coming into 
existence is developed on the surface of the earth without any 

On the contrary, during the night of Brahman the spheres rest from 
their motions, and all the stars, as well as their apsides and nodes, 
stand still in one particular place. 

In consequence all the affairs of the earth are in one and the same 
unchanging condition, therefore the coming into existence has 
ceased, because he who makes things come into existence rests. So 
both the processes of acting and of being acted upon are suspended; 
the elements rest from entering into new metamorphoses and com¬ 
binations, as they rest now in ( lacuna; perhaps: the night), and they 
prepare themselves to belong to new beings, which will come into 
existence on the following day of Brahman. 

In this way existence circulates during the life of Brahman, a subject 
which we shall propound in its proper place. 

According to these notions of the Hindus, creation and destruc¬ 
tion only refer to the surface of the earth. By such a creation, not 

one piece of clay comes into existence 
which did not exist before, and by such 
a destruction not one piece of clay 

Critical remark 
of the author 

which exists ceases to exist. It is quite impossible that the Hindus 
should have the notion of a creation as long as they believe that 
matter existed from all eternity. 

The Hindus represent to their common people the two durations 
here mentioned, the day of Brahman and the night of Brahman, as 
his waking and sleeping; and we do not disapprove of these terms, as 
they denote something which has a beginning and end. Further, the 


J ndia by Al-Biruni 

whole of the life of Brahman, consisting of a succession of motion and 

rest in the world during such a period, 

L r fs r ie a e n pinr akm8 is considered as applying only to 

existence, not to non-existence, since 
during it the piece of clay exists and, besides, also its shape. The life 
of Brahman is only a day for that being who is above him, i.e. Purusha 
(cf. chap, xxxv ). When he dies all compounds are dissolved during 
his night, and in consequence of the annihilation of the compounds, 
that also is suspended which kept him (Brahman) within the laws of 
nature. This, then, is the rest of Purusha, and of all that is under his 
control (lit. and of his vehicles). 

When common people describe these things, they make the night 
of Brahman follow after the night of Purusha; and as Purusha is the 

name for a man, they attribute to him 

JXSSplTiSSSf” sl “P' n e »«*"« They derive 

destruction from his snoring,, in conse¬ 
quence of which all things that hang together break asunder, and 
everything standing is drowned in the sweat of his forehead. And 
more of the like they produce, things which the mind declines to 
accept and the ear refuses to hear. 

Therefore the educated Hindus do not share these opinions 
(regarding the waking and sleeping of Brahman), for they know the 
real nature of sleep. They know that the body, a compound of anti¬ 
pathetic humores , requires sleep for the purpose of resting, and for 
this purpose that all which nature requires, after being wasted, 
should be duly replaced. So, in consequence of the constant dis¬ 
solution, the body requires food in order to replace that which had 
been lost by emaciation. Further, it requires cohabitation for the 
purpose of perpetuating the species by the body, as without coha¬ 
bitation the species would die out. Besides, the body requires other 
things, evil ones, but necessary, while simple substances can 
dispense with them, as also he can who is above them, like to whom 
there is nothing. 

Further, the Hindus maintain that the world will perish in con¬ 
sequence of the conjunction of the twelve suns, which appear one 

after the other in the different months, 

enTof S the 8 world 8 the ruining the earth by burning and calcin¬ 

ing it, and by withering and drying up 
all moist substances. Further, the world perishes in consequence of 
the union of the four rains which now come down in the different 

On the Notions of Duration and Time 


seasons of the year; that which has been calcined attracts the water 
and is thereby dissolved. Lastly, the world perishes by the cessation 
of light and by the prevalence of darkness and non-existence. By all 
this the world will be dissolved into atoms and be scattered. ... 

The context of these passages makes it clear that this destruction 
of the world takes place at the end of a kalpa, and hence is derived 

the theory of Abu Ma’shar that a deluge 
takes place at the conjunction of the 
planets, because, in fact, they stand in 

Abu-Ma’shar uses 
Indian theories 

conjunction at the end of each caturyuga and at the beginning of each 
kaliyuga. If this conjunction is not a complete one, the deluge, too, 
will evidently not attain the highest degree of its destructive power. 
The farther we advance in the investigation of these subjects, the 
more light will be shed on all ideas of this kind, and the better the 
reader will understand all words and terms occurring in this context. 

Aleranshahri records a tradition, as representing the belief of the 
Buddhists, which much resembles the silly tales just mentioned. On 

the sides of Mount Meru there are four 
worlds, which are alternately civilised 
or desert. A world becomes desert when 

Buddhist notions from 

it is overpowered by the fire, in consequence of the rising of seven 
suns, one after the other, over it, when the water of the fountains 
dries up, and the burning fire becomes so strong as to penetrate into 
the world. A world becomes civilised when the fire leaves it and 
migrates to another world; after it has left, a strong wind rises in the 
world, drives the clouds, and makes 4:hem rain, so that, the world 
becomes like an ocean. Out of its foam shells are produced, with 
which the souls are connected, and out of these human beings 
originate when the water has sunk into the ground. Some Buddhists 
think that a man comes by accident from the perishing world to the 
growing world. Since he feels unhappy on account of his being alone, 
out of his thought there arises a spouse, and from this couple 
generation commences. 


On The Various Kinds Of The Day Or 
Nychthemeron, And On Day And 
Night In Particular 

According to the general usage of Muslims, Hindus, and others, a 
day or nychthemeron means the duration of one revolution of the sun 

in a rotation of the universe, in which he 
Definition of day and night starts from the one half of a great circle 

and returns to the same. Apparently it is 
divided into two halves: the day (i.e. the time of the sun’s being 
visible to the inhabitants of a certain place on earth), and the night 
(i.e. the time of his being invisible to them). His being visible and 
being invisible are relative facts, which differ as the horizons differ. 
It is well known that the horizon of the equator, which the Hindus 
call the country without latitude, cuts the circles parallel to the meridian 
in two halves. In consequence, day and night are always equal there. 
However, the horizons which cut the parallel circles without passing 
through their pole divide them into two unequal halves, the more so 
the smaller the parallel circles are. In consequence, there day and 
night are unequal, except at the times of the two equinoxes, when on 
the whole earth, except Meru and Vadavamukha, day and night are 
equal. Then all the places north and south of the line share in this 


On the Various Kinds of the Day or Nychthemeron 

peculiarity of the line, but only at this time, not at any other. 

The beginning of the day is the sun’s rising above the horizon, the 
beginning of the night his disappearing below it. The Hindus 

consider the day as the first, the night as 
Manushyahoratra the second, part of the nychthemeron. 

Therefore they call the former Savana, 
i.e. a day depending on the rising of the 
sun. Besides, they call it Manushyahoratra, i.e. a human day, because, 
in fact, the great mass of their people do not know any other kind of 
day but this. Now, assuming the Savana to be known to the reader, 
we shall in the following use it as a stapdard and gauge, in order 
thereby to determine all the other kinds of days. 

[Al-Biruni describes ‘the other kinds of days’. Selected extracts 
from this description are given below:] 

After the human days follows Pitrinamahoratra, i.e. the nychthe¬ 
meron of the forefathers, whose spirits, according to the belief of the 

Hindus, dwell in the sphere of the 
Days of the fathers moon. Its day and night depend upon 

light and darkness, not upon the rising 
and setting in relation to a certain horizon. When the moon stands in 
the highest parts of the sphere with reference to them, this is a day to 
them; and when it stands in the lowest parts, it is night to them. 
Evidently their moon is the time of the conjunction or full moon, and 
their midnight is opposition, or new moon. Therefore the nychthemeron 
of the forefathers is a complete lunar month, the day beginning at the 
time of half-moon, when the light on the moon’s body begins to 
increase, and the night beginning at the time of half-moon, when her 
light begins to wane. ... 

Next follows the Divyahoratra, i.e. the nychthemeron of the angels. 
It is known that the horizon of the greatest latitude, i.e. that of 90 

degrees where the pole stands in the 
Days of the Devas zenith, is the equator, not exactly, but 

approximately, because it is a little 
below the visible horizon for that place on earth which is occupied 
by Mount Meru; for its top and slopes the horizon in question and 
the equator may be absolutely identical, although the visible horizon 
lies a little below it (i.e. farther south). Further, it is evident that the 
zodiac is divided into two halves by being intersected by the equator, 
the one half lying above the equator (i.e. north of it), the second half 
below it. As long as the sun marches in the signs of northern 


India by Al-Biruni 

declination it revolves like a mill, since the diurnal arcs which he 
describes are parallel to the horizon, as in the case of the sun-dials. 
For those who live under the north pole the sun appears above the 
horizon, therefore they have day. Whilst for those under south pole 
the sun is concealed below the horizon, and therefore they have 
night. When, then, the sun migrates to the southern signs, he 
revolves like a mill below the horizon, (i.e. south of the equator); 
hence it is night to the people living under the north pole and day to 
those living under the south pole. 

The dwellings of the Devaka, i.e. the spiritual beings, are under the 
two poles; therefore this kind of day is called by their name, i.e. the 
nychthemeron of the Deva. 

Aryabhatta of Kusumpura says that the Devas see one half of the 
solar year, the Danava the other; that the Pitaras see one half of the 
lunar month, human beings the other. So one revolution of the sun in 
the zodiac affords day and night both to the Deva and Danava, and 
their totality is a nychthemeron. 

In consequence our year is identical with the nychthemeron of the 
Deva. In it, however, day and night are not equal (as in the 
nychthemeron of the forefathers), because the sun moves slowly in 
the half of the northern declination about its apogee, by which the 
day becomes a little longer. However, this difference is not equal to 
the difference between the visible horizon and the real one, for this 
cannot be observed on the globe of the sun. Besides, according to 
Hindu notions, the inhabitants of those places are raised above the 
surface of the earth, dwelling on Mount Meru. Whoever holds this 
view holds regarding the height of Meru the same opinions as those 
we have described in the proper place (in chap, xxiii). In 
consequence of this height of Mount Meru, its horizon must fall a 
little lower (i.e. more southward than the equator), and in conse¬ 
quence the rate of the day’s being longer than the night is lessened 
(as then the sun does not entirely reach his northern apogee, 
where he makes the longest days). If this were anything else but 
simply a religious tradition of the Hindus, besides being one regard¬ 
ing which even they do not agree among themselves, we should try to 
find, by astronomical calculation, the amount of this depression of 
the horizon of Mount Meru below the equator, but as there is no use 
in this subject (Mount Meru being simply an invention), we drop 
it. . . . 

Next follows the Brahmahoratra, i.e. the nychthemeron of 


On the Various Kinds of the Day or Nychthemeron 

Brahman. It is not derived from light and darkness (as that of the 

forefathers), nor from the appearing or 
Day of Brahman disappearing of a heavenly body (like 

that of the Devas), but from the 
physical nature of created things, in consequence of which they move 
in the day and rest in the night. The length of the nychthemeron of 
Brahman is 8,640,000,000 of our years. During one half of it, i.e. 
during the day, the aether, with all that is in it, is moving, the earth is 
producing, and the changes of existence and destruction are 
constandy going on upon the surface of the earth. During the other 
half, i.e. the night, there occurs the opposite of everything which 
occurs in the day; the earth is not changing, because those things 
which produce the changes are resting and all motions are stopped, 
as nature rests in the night and in the winter, and concentrates itself, 
preparing for a new existence in the day and in the summer. 

Each day of Brahman is a kalpa, as also each night, and a kalpa is 
that space of time which Muslim authors call the year of the Sindhind. 

Lastly follows the Purushahoratra, i.e. the nychthemeron of the All¬ 
soul, which is also called Mahakalpa, i.e. the greatest kalpa. The 

Hindus only use it for the purpose of 
Day Of Purusha determining duration in general by 

something like a notion of time, but do 
not specify it as day and night. I almost feel inclined to think that the 
day of this nychthemeron means the duration of the soul s being 
connected with the hule , whilst the night means the duration of their 
being separated from each other, and of the resting of the souls (from 
the fatigue of being mixed up with the hule), and that that condition 
which necessitates the soul’s being connected with the hule or its 
being separated from the hule reaches its periodical end at the end of 
this nychthemeron. The Vishnu-Dharma says: “The life of Brahman is 

the day ofPurusha,and the night ofPurusha has the same length”.... 


On The Division Of The Nychthemeron Into 
Minor Particles Of Time 

The Hindus are foolishly painstaking in inventing the most minute 
particles of time, but their efforts have not resulted in a universally 

adopted and uniform system. On the 
Ghali contrary, you hardly ever meet with two 

books or two men representing the 
subject identically. In the first instance, the nychthemeron is divided 
into sixty minutes or ghati ... 

Each minute is divided into sixty seconds, called cashaka or 
tashaka cakhaka, and also vighatika. 

Each second is divided into six parts or prana, 
hann i.e. breath. ... 

It is all the same whether we determine the prana according to this 
rule (one nychthemeron = 21,600 prana) or if we divide each ghati 
into 360 parts (60 x 360 = 21,600), or each degree of the sphere 
into sixty parts (360 X 60 = 21,600). 

As far as this all Hindus agree with each other in the matter, 
Vmadl though they use different terms. ... 

Other people insert between minute and second a third measure, 
called kshana, which is equal to one-fourth of a minute (or fifteen 

Division of the Nychthemeron 


seconds). Each kshana # is divided 
Kshana into fifteen kala, each of which is equal 

to one-sixtieth of a minute, and this is 

the cashaka, only called by another name. 

Among the lower orders of these fractions of time there occur 
three names which are always mentioned in the same sequence. The 

largest is the nimesha, i.e. the time during 
Nimesha, lava, ttuti which the eye, in the normal state of 

things, is open between two consecutive 
looks. The lava is the mean, and the truti the smallest part of time, the 
latter word meaning the cracking of the forefinger against the inside 
of the thumb, which is with them a gesture expressive of 
astonishment or admiration. The relation between these three 
measures varies very much. According to many of the Hindus 

2 truti = 1 lava. 

2 lava = 1 nimehsa 

Further, they differ as to the relation between the nimesha and the 
next higher order of fractions of time, for according to some the latter 
Y kashtha) contains fifteen, according to others thirty nimesha. Others, 
again, divide each of these three measures into eighths, so that— 

8 truti =1 lava 
8 lava = 1 nimesha 
8 nimesha = 1 kashtha (?)... 

The whole system is represented in the following Table: 

The names of the 
measures of time 

Ghati, Nadi 

Cashaka, Vinadi, Kala 





Anu . 

How many times the How many of 
smaller one is con- it are contained 
tained in the in one day 

larger one 

















The Hindus have also a popular kind of division of the nychthe- 


India by Al-Biruni 

meron into eight prabara, i.e. changes of the watch, and in some parts 

of their country they have clepsydrae 
Prabara regulated according to the ghati, by 

which the times of the eight watches 
are determined. After a watch lasts seven and a half ghati has 
elapsed, they beat the drum and blow a winding shell called sankha, 
in Persian sped-muhra . I have seen this in the town of Purshur. Pious 
people have bequeathed for these clepsydrae, and for their 
administration, legacies and fixed incomes. 

Further, the day is divided into thirty muhurtas, but this division is 
not free from a certain obscurity; for sometimes you think that the 

muhurtas have always the same length, 
Muhurta since they compare them either with the 

ghati and say that two ghati are one 
muhurta, or with the watches , and say that one watch is three and three- 
quarters muhurtas. Here the muhurtas are treated as if they were horoe 
oequinoctiales (i.e. so and so many equal parts of the nychthemeron). 
However, the number of such hours of day or of a night differs on 
every degree of latitude, and this makes us think that the length of a 
muhurta during the day is different from its length during the night .... 

[Pulisa’s views as to whether the length of the muhurta is variable 
or invariable is critically examined. Pp. 338-342.] 

We represent the dominants of the single muhurta in the follow- 
Dominants of the muhurta ing Table: 

The number The dominants of 
of the muhurta in the day 

The dominants of the muhurta 
in the night 

1 . 

2 . 




6 . 


8 . 

Shiva, i.e. Mahadeva Rudra, i.e. Mahadeva 

Bhujaga, i.e. the 



Apas, i.e. the water 

Virincya, i.e. 

Aja, i.e. the lord of all cloven¬ 
footed animals 
Ahirbudhnya, the lord of 
U tt ar abh adrapad a 
Pushan, the lord of Revati 
Dasra, the lord of Asvini 
Antaka, i.e. the angel of death 
Agni, i.e. the fire 
Dhatri, i.e. Brahma the preserver 

Division of the Nychthemeron 



Kesvara(?), i.e. 





Indra, the prince 


Nisakara, i.e. the 



Varuna, i.e. the 1< 

of the clouds 





Soma, the lord of Mrigasirsha 

Guru, i.e. Jupiter 
Hari, i.e. Narayana 
Ravi, i.e. the sun 

Yama, the angel of death 

Tvashtri, the lord of Citra 
Anila, i.e. the wind 

Nobody in India uses the hours except the astrologers, for they 
speak of the dominants of the hours, and, in consequence, also 

of dominants of the nychthemera. The 
On the hours in dominant of the nychthemeron is at the 

Hindus astrology same time the dominant of the night, for 

they do not separately establish a dominant for the day, and the night 
is, in this connection, never mentioned. They arrange the order of the 
dominants according to the horoe temporales. 

They call the hour hora, and this name seems to indicate that in 
reality they use the horoe obliquoe temporales; for the Hindus call the 
media signorum (the centres of the signs of the Zodiac) hora, which we 
Muslims call nimbahr (cf. chap. 1 xxx ). The reason is this, that in 
each day and each night always six signs rise above the horizon. If, 
therefore, the hour is called by the name of the centre of a sign, each 
day and each night has twelve hours, and in consequence the hours 
used in the theory of the dominants of the hours are horoe obliquoe 
temporales, as they are used in our country and are inscribed on the 
astrolabes on account of these dominants. ... 

The Hindus give certain names to the horoe obliquoe, which we have 

united in the following Table. We think 

Names of the thev are taken from the bodk Srudhava. 

twenty-four horns J 


of the 

Names of 
the Horns 
in the day 

Whether fav¬ 
ourable or 

Their names 
in the night 

Whether fav¬ 
ourable or 












India by Al-Biruni 
















































The most un¬ 

lucky of all 




On The Different Kinds Of Months And Years 

Definition of the 
lunar month 

The natural month is the period of the moon’s synodical revolution. 
We call it physical because it develops in the same way as all natural 

phenomena, rising out of a certain 
beginning like non-existence, increasing 
by degrees, and growing, standing still 
when the climax is attained, then descending, waning away and 
decreasing, till at last they return to the non-existence whence they 
came. In the same manner the light develops on the body of the 
moon, since she appears after the moonless nights as a crescent, then 
as a young moon (after the third night), and as full moon, and 
thereafter returns through the same stages to the last night, which is 
like non-existence, at all events with reference to human senses. It is 
well known to everybody why the moon continues for some length of 
time in the moonless nights, but it is not equally known, not even to 
educated people, why she continues some time as full moon. They 
must learn how small the body of the moon is in comparison with 
that of the sun, that in consequence the enlightened portion by far 
exceeds the dark one, and that this is one of the causes why the moon 
must necessarily appear as full moon for some length of time. 

That the moon has certain effects on moist substances, that they 


India by Al-Biruni 

are apparently subject to her influences that, for instance, increase i 

and decrease in ebb and flow develop 
Effects of moonlight periodically and parallel with the 

moon’s phases, all this is well known to 
the inhabitants of seashores and seafaring people. Likewise 
physicians are well aware that she affects the humores of sick people, 
and that the fever-days revolve parallel with the moon’s course. 
Physical scholars know that the life of animals and plants depends 
upon the moon, and experimentalists know that she influences 
marrow and brain, eggs and the sediments of wine in casks and jugs, 
that she excites the minds of people who sleep in full moonlight, and 
that she affects (?) linen clothes which are exposed to it. Peasants 
know how the moon acts upon fields of cucumbers, melons, cotton, 
etc., and even make the times for the various kinds of sowing, 
planting, and grafting, and for the covering of the cattle depend upon 
the course of the moon. Lastly, astronomers know that meteorologic 
occurrences depend upon the various phases through which the 
moon passes in her revolutions. This is the month, and twelve of 
them are in technical language called a lunar year. 

The natural year is the period of a revolution of the sun in the 
ecliptic. We call it the natural, because it comprehends all the stages 

in the process of generation which 
Solar month revolve through the four seasons of the 

year. In the course of it, the rays of the 
sun as passing through a window-glass and the shadows of the 
sundials reassume *he same size, position, and direction in which, 
or from which, they commenced. This is the year, and is called the 
solar one, in antithesis to the lunar year. As the lunar month is the 
twelfth part of the lunar year, the twelfth part of the solar year is a 
solar month in theory, the calculation being based on the mean 
rotation of the sun. If, however, the calculation is based on his 
varying rotation a solar month is the period of his staying in one sign 
of the zodiac. 

These are the well-known two kinds of months and years. 

The Hindus call the conjunction amavasya, the opposition pumima , 
and the two quarters ATVH (?). Some of them use the lunar year 

with lunar months and days, whilst 
On luni-solar calculation others use the lunar year but solar 

months, beginning with 0° of each 

zodiacal sign. The sun’s entering a sign is called sankranti This luni- 


On the Different Kinds of Months and Years 


solar calculation is, however, only an approximative one. If they 
constantly used it, they would soon feel induced to adopt the solar 
year itself and solar months. In using this mixed system they had 
only this advantage, that they could dispense with intercalation. 

Those who use lunar months begin the month with conjunction of 

new moon, and this method is the 
kmar'months **** canonical one, whilst the others begin it 

with the opposition or full moon. ... 

The numeration of the days of the month begins with the new 
moon and the first lunar day is called brba, and again enumeration 

begins with full noon (i.e. they count 
S 1 two°hdves Unted twice fifteen days, beginning with new 

moon and full moon). Each two days 
which are equidistant from new moon or full moon have the same 
name (or number). In them, light and darkness on the body of the 
moon are in corresponding phases of increasing and waning, and the 
hours of the rising of the moon in one day correspond to the hours of 
her setting in the other. ... 

As months are composed of days, there are as many kinds of 

months as there are kinds of days. Each 
Various kinds of months month has thirty days. We shall here 

use the civil day ( Savana, v. chap. 

xxxiii) as a standard. ... 

A month has 30 lunar days, for this number is canonical, as the 
number of 360 is canonical for the number of days of a year. The 
soiar month has 30 solar days and 



civil days. 

The solar year has 365 



civil days. 


On The Four Measures Of Time Called Mana 

Mana and pramana mean measure. The four kinds of measures are 
mentioned by Yakub Ibn Tarik in his book Compositio Sphoerarum, but 
he did not know them thoroughly, and besides, the names are 
misspelled, if this is not the fault of the copyists. 

They are— 

Saura-mana, i.e. the solar measure. 

Savana-mana , i.e. the measure depending upon the rising (civil 

Candra-mana, i.e. the lunar measure. 

Nakshatra-mana i.e. the lunar-station measure ( sidereal measure). 

The saura-mana is used in the computation of the years which 
compose the kalpa and the four yugas in the caturyugas, of the years of 

the nativities, of the equinoxes and 
What use is made of the solstices, of the sixth parts of the year or 

and savana-mana the seasons, and of the difference 

between day and night in the nychthe- 
meron. All these are computed in solar years, months, and days. 

The candra-mana is used in the computation of the eleven karana 
(v. chap, lxxviii), in the determination of the leap month, in the 
computation of the sum of days of the unaratra (v. chap, li), and ol 


On the Four Measures of Time Called Mana 

new moon and full moon for lunar and solar eclipses (v. chap. lix). 

The savana-mana is used in the calculation of the vara, i.e.the days 
of the week, of the ahargana, i.e. the sum of the days of an era 
(v. chap, li); in determining the days of marriage and fasting (v. chap, 
lxxv); the sutaka, i.e. the days of childbed (v. chap, lxix); the days of 
the uncleanness of the houses and the vessels of the dead (v. chap, 
lxxii); the cikitsa, i.e. certain months and years in which Hindu 
medical science prescribes the taking of certain medicines; further in 
determining, the prayascitta, i.e. the days of the expiations which the 
Brahmans make obligatory for those who have committed some sin, 
times during which they are obliged to fast and to besmear 
themselves with butter and dung (v. chap. lxxi). All these things are 
determined according to savana-mana. 

On the contrary, they do not determine anything by the nakshatra- 
mana, since it is comprehended in the candra-mana. 

Every measure of time which any class of people may choose by 
general consent to call a day, may be considered as a mana. Some 
such days have already been mentioned in a preceding chapter (v. 
chap, xxxiii). However, the four manas par excellence are those to the 
explanation of which, we have limited the present chapter. 


On The Parts Of The Month And The Year 

As the year is one revolution of the sun in the ecliptic, it is divided in 
the same way as the ecliptic. The latter is divided into two halves, 

depending upon the two solstitial points. 
Uttarayana and dakshinayana Correspondingly, the year is divided 

into two halves, each of which is called 

ay ana. 

When the sun leaves the point of the winter solstice, he begins 
to move towards the north pole. Therefore this part of the year, 
which is nearly one half, is referred to the north and called uttarayana, 
i.e. the period of the sun’s marching through six zodiacal signs 
beginning with Caper. In consequence, this half of the ecliptic is called 
makaradi, i.e. having Caper as beginning. 

When the sun leaves the point of the summer solstice he begins to 
move towards the south pole; therefore this second half is referred to 
the south and called dakshinayana, i.e. the period of the sun s 
marching through six zodiacal signs beginning with Cancer. In 
consequence, this half of the ecliptic is called karkadi, i.e. having 
Cancer as beginning. 

Uneducated people use only these two divisions or year-halves, 
because the matter of the two solstices is clear to them from 

On the Parts of the Month and the Year 


observation of their senses. 

Further, the ecliptic is divided into two halves, according to its 
declination from the equator, and this division is a more scientific 

one, less known to the people at large 
vttarakuia and dahhakuia than the former, because it jests on 

calculation and speculation. Each halt 
is called hula. That which has northern declination is caUed 
uttarakula or meshadi, i.e. having Aries as beginning; that which has 
southern declination is called dakshakula or tuladi, i.e. having Libra as 

Further, the ecliptic is by both these divisions divided into four 
parts and the periods during which the sun traverses them are called 

the seasons of the year —spring, summer. 
The seasons autumn, and winter. Accordingly, the 

zodiacal signs are distributed over the 
seasons. However, the Hindus do not divide the year into four, but 
into six parts, and call these six parts ritu. Each ntu comprehends 
two solar months, i.e. the period of the sun’s marching through two 
consecutive zodiacal signs. Their names and dominants are 
represented, according to the most widespread theory, in the 

following diagram. ., , 

I have been told that in the region of Somanath people divide the 
year into three parts, each consisting of four months, the first being 
varshakala, beginning with month ashadha; the second, sitakala, ue. the 
winter; and the third, ushnakala, i.e. the summer.... The months are 
divided into two halves from new moon to full moon, and from lull 
moon to new moon.... 


On The Various Measures Of Time Composed 
Of Days, The Life Of Brahman Included 

The day is called dim as (dimasu), in classical language divasa, the 
night ratri, and the nychthemeron ahoratra. The month is called masa 
.. its half paksha. The first or white 

Recapitulation of the , u . . n , , 

single measures of time nal1 1S Called suklapakshd , because the 

first parts of its nights have moonlight 
at times when people do not yet sleep, when the light on the moon's 
body increases and the dark portion decreases. The other or black 
half is called krishnapaksha, because the first parts of its nights are 
moonless, whilst other parts have moonlight, but only when people 
sleep. They are the nights when the light on the body of the moon 
wanes, whilst the dark part increases. 

The sum of two months is a ritu, but this is only an approximative 
definition, for the month which has two paksha is a lunar month, 
whilst that one the double of which is a ritu is a solar month. 

Six ritu are a year of mankind, a solar year, which is called bath or 
barkh or harsh, the three sounds h, kh, and sh being much confounded 
in the month of the Hindus (Skr. varsha). 

Three hundred and sixty years of mankind are one year of the 
angels, called dibba-barh (divya-varsh) , and 12,000 years of the angels 

Various Measures of Time 


are unanimously reckoned as one caturyuga. There is a difference of 
opinion only regarding the four parts of the caturyuga and regarding 
the multiplications of it which form a manavantara and a kalpa. This 
subject will be fully explained in the proper place (v. chaps, xli and 
xliv). . . 


On Measures Of Time Which Are Larger Than 
The Life Of Brahman 

All that is devoid of order or contradicts the rules laid down in the 
preceding parts of this book is repulsive to our nature and dis¬ 

agreeable to our ear. But the Hindus 
are people who mention a number of 
names, all—as they maintain—referring 
to the One, the First, or to some one 

Want of system 
regarding the greatest 
measures of time 

behind him who is only hinted at. When they come to a chapter like 
this, they repeat the same names as denoting a multitude of beings, 
measuring out lives for them and inventing huge numbers. The latter 
is all they want; they indulge in it most freely, and numbers are 
Datient. standing as vou place them. Besides, there is not a single 
subject on which the Hindus themselves agree among each other, 
and this prevents us on our part adopting the use of it. On the 
contrary, they disagree on these imaginary measures of time to the 
same extent as on the divisions of the day which are less than a prana. 

Sources quoted regarding the calculation of the greatest measure 
of time as determined by kalpas and truth. Pp. 361-363.] 


On The Samdhi, The Interval Between Two 
Periods Of Time, Forming The Connecting Link 
Between Them 

The original samdhi is the interval between day and night, i.e. 
morning-dawn, called samdhi udaya, i.e. the samdhi of the rising, and 

evening dawn, called samdhi astamana, 

§?£££ «* »»* <* «•«■* The 

Hindus require them for a religious 

reason, for the Brahmans wash themselves during them, and also at 

noon in the midst between them for dinner, whence an uninitiated 

person might infer that there is still a third samdhi However, none 

who knows the subject properly will count more than two samdhis. 

Besides the two samdhi of the natural day, astronomers and other 
people assume still other samdhis, which do not rest on a law of 

nature nor on observation, but simply 
on some hypothesis. So they attribute a 

On the samdhi of the year-half sarndhl to ea ch ayana, i.e. to each of the 
and its combmaUon with the . , ..... , 

precession of the equinoxes. year-halves in which the sun ascends 

Other kinds of samdhi ^ descends (v. chap, xxxvii), a samdhi 

of seven days before its real beginn¬ 
ing. On this subject I have an idea which is certainly possible. 


India by Al-Biruni 

and even rather likely, viz. that this theory is of recent origin, not of 
ancient date, and that it has been brought forward about 1300 of 
Alexander (= A.D. 989), when the Hindus found out that the real 
solstice precedes the solstice of their calculation. ... 


Definition Of The Terms “Kalpa” And “Catur- 
yuga,” And An Explication Of The One By The 


Twelve thousand divya years, the length of which has already been 
explained (v. chap, xxxv), are one catuiyuga, and 1,000 caturyugas 

are one kalpa, a period at the beginning 
On the measure of a and en( j Q f which there is a conjunction 

mturyuga and a ^ of the seven planets and their apsides 

and nodes in 0° of Aries. The days of the kalpa are called the kalpa- 
ahargam, for ah means day, and argana means the sun Since they are 
civil days derived from the rising of the sun, they are also called days of 
the earth, for rising presupposes an horizon, and an horizon is one of 
the necessary attributes of the earth. 

By the same name, kalpa-ahargana, people also call the sum of 
days of any era up to a certain date. 

Our Muslim authors call the days of the kalpa the days of the Sindhind 
or the days of the world , counting them as 1,577,916, 450,000 days 
(savana or civil days), or 4,320,000,000 solar years, or 4,452,775,000 

lunar years. ... . 

Within the space of a kalpa 71 caturyugas are equal to 1 manu, i.e. 
manavantara, or Manu-period, and 14 manus are equal to 1 kalpa. 


India by Al-Biruni 

Relation between 

manavantara and kalpa 

Multiplying 71 by 14, you get 994 caturyugas as the period of 14 

manavantaras, and a remainder of 6 
caturyugas till the end of the kalpa. .. . 
All we have said in this chapter rests 
on the theory of Brahmagupta and on the arguments by which he 
supports it. 

Aryabhatta the elder and Pulisa compose the manavantara from 72 
caturyugas, and the kalpa from 14 manavantaras, without inserting 

anywhere samdhi Therefore, according 

^.^Osa^lCabhatU, ^ AJSSJ 1 ” L °° 8 

the younger further 12,096,000, divya years or 4,354, 

560,000 human years. ... 

I have not been able to find anything of the books of Aryabhatta. 
All I know of him I know through quotations from him given by 
Brahmagupta. ... 

Aryabhatta of Kusumpura, who belongs to the school of the elder 
Aryabhatta, says in a small book of his on Al-ntf (?) that “1,008 
caturyugas are one day of Brahman. The first half of 504 caturyugas is 
called utsarpini, during which the sun is ascending, and the second 
half is called avasrapini, during which the sun is descending. The 
midst of this period is called sama, i.e. equality, for it is the midst of 
the day, and the two ends are called durtama (?).” 


On The Division Of The Caturyuga Into Yugas, 
And The Different Opinions Regarding The 


The author of the Vishnu-Dharma says: “Twelve hundred divya years 

are one yaga, called tishya. The double of it is a dvapara, the triple a 

, treta, the quadruple a krita, and all four 

The single parts of a caturyuga . . • 

according to Vishnu-Dharma yugas together are one caturyuga, i.e the 

Brahma f our yugas or sums. 

“Seventy-one caturyugas are one manavantara, and 14 mamvantaras, 

together with a samdhi of the duration of one kritayuga between each 
two of them, are one kalpa. Two kalpas are a nychthemeron of 
Brahman, and his life is a hundred years, or one day of Purusha, the 
first man, of whom neither beginning nor end is known.” 

[Brahmagupta’s view on the subject and his ‘offensive’ criticism ol 
Aryabhatta’s views are stated, pp. 373-376. On the latter point Al- 
Biruni remarks that:] 

Now, it is evident that that which Brahmagupta relates on his 
authority, and with which he himself agrees is entirely unfounded; 
but he is blind to this from sheer hatred of Aryabhatta, whom he 
abuses excessively*. And in this respect Aryabhatta and Pulisa are the 
same to him. I take for witness the passage of Brahmagupta, where 


India by Al-Biruni 

he says that Aryabhatta has subtracted something from the cycles of 
the Caput Draconis and of the apsis of the moon and thereby rendered 
confused the computation of the eclipse. He is rude enough to 
compare Aryabhatta to a worm which, eating the wood, by chance 
describes certain characters in it, without understanding them and 
without intending to draw them....In such offensive terms he attacks 
Aryabhatta and maltreats him. ... 


A Description Of The Four Yugas, And Of All 
That Is Expected To Take Place At The End Of 
The Fourth Yuga 

The ancient Greeks held regarding the earth various opinions, of 
which we shall relate one for the sake of an example. 

The disasters which from time to time befall the earth, both from 
above and from below, differ in quality and quantity. Frequently it 

has experienced one so incommensu- 
On natural cataclysms rable in quality or in quantity, or in both 

together, that there was no remedy 
against it, and that nd flight or caution was of any avail. The cata¬ 
strophe comes on like a deluge or an earthquake, bringing 
destruction either by the breaking in of the surface, or by drowning 
with water which breaks forth, or by burning with hot stones and 
ashes that are thrown out, by thunderstorms, by landslips, and 
typhoons; further, by contagious and other diseases, by pestilence, 
and more of the like. Thereby a large region is stripped of its 
inhabitants; but when after a while, after the disaster and its 
consequences have passed away, the country begins to recover and 
to show new signs of life, then different people flock there together 
like wild animals, who formerly were dwelling in hiding-holes and on 


India by Al-Biruni 

the tops of the mountains. They become civilised by assisting each 
other against common foes, wild beasts or men, and furthering each 
other in the hope for a life in safety and joy. Thus they increase to 
great numbers; but then ambition, circling round them with the wings 
of wrath and envy, begins to disturb the serene bliss of their life. 

Sometimes a nation of such a kind derives its pedigree from a 
person who first settled in the place or distinguished himself by 
something or other, so that he alone continues to live in the 
recollection of the succeeding generations, whilst all others beside 
him are forgotten. ... 

The Hindus have similar traditions regarding the caturyuga, for 
according to them, at the beginning of it, Le. at the beginning of 

kritayuga, there was happiness and 

th^r^SefooS” 8 Safety ’ ferti,ity 311(1 abundance ’ health 

and force, ample knowledge and a great 
number of Brahmans. The good is complete in this age, like four- 
fourths of a whole, and life lasted 4,000 years alike for all beings 
during this whole space of time. 

Thereupon things began to decrease and to be mixed with opposite 
elements to such a degree, that at the beginning of tretayuga the good 
was thrice as much as the invading bad, and that bliss was three- 
quarters of the whole. There were a greater number of Kshatriyas 
than of Brahmans, and life had the same length as in the preceding 
age. So it is represented by the Vishnu-Dharma, whilst analogy 
requires that it should be shorter by the same amount than bliss is 
smaller, i.e. by one-fourth. In this age, when offering to the fire, they 
begin to kill animals and to tear off plants, practices which before 
were unknown. 

Thus the evil increases till, at the beginning of dvapara, evil and 
good exist in equal proportions, and likewise bliss and misfortune. 
The climates begin to differ, there is much killing going on, and the 
religions become different. Life becomes shorter, and lasts only 400 
years, according to the Vishnu-Dharma. At the beginning of Tishya, i.e. 
kaliyuga, evil is thrice as much as the remaining good. 

The Hindus have several well-known traditions of events which 

are said to have occurred in the treta and dvapara yugas, e.g. the story 
of Rama, who killed Ravana; that of Parasurama the Brahman, who 
killed every Kshatriya he laid hold upon, revenging on them the 
death of his father. They think that he lives in heaven, that he has 
already twenty-one times appeared on earth, and that he will again 

Description of the Four Yugas 


appear. Further, the story of the war of the children of Pandu with 
those of Kuru. 

In the kaliyuga evil increases, till at last it results in the destruction 
of all good. At that time the inhabitants of the earth perish, and a 
new race rises out of those who are scattered through the mountains 
and hide themselves in caves, uniting for the purpose of worshipping 
and flying from the horrid, demoniac human race. Therefore this age 
is called kritayuga, which means “Being ready for going away after 
having finished the work.” 

In the story of Saunaka which Venus received from Brahman, 
God speaks to him in the following words: “When the Kaliyuga 

comes, I send Budhodana, the son of 
Suddhodana the pious, to spread good 
to the creation. But then Muhammira, i.e. 

Description of the 


the red-wearing ones, who derive their origin from him, will change 
everything that he has brought, and the dignity of the Brahmans will 
be gone to such a degree that a Sudra, their servant, will be impudent 
towards them. . .. The castes will be in uproar against each other, 
the genealogies will become confused and the four castes will be 
abolished, and there will be many religions and sects. ... 

[Description of the kaliyuga , as given, in Vishnu-Dharma and some 
other sources, is presented. Pp. 380-382]. 

But finally, at the end of the yuga , when the evil will have reached 
its highest pitch, there will come forward Garga, the son of J-S-V (?) 
the Brahman, i.e. Kali, after whom thisjwga is called, gifted with an 
irresistible force, and more skilled in the use of any weapon than any 
other. Then he draws his sword to make good all that has become 
bad; he cleans the surface of the earth of the impurity of people and 
clears the earth of them. He collects the pure and pious ones for the 
purpose of procreation. Then the kritayuga lies far behind them, and 
the time and the world return to purity, and to absolute good and to 

This is the nature of the yugas as they circle round through the 


The book Caraka, as quoted by Ali Ibn Zain of Tabaris^an, says: 
“In primeval times the earth was always fertile and healthy, and the 

elements or Mahabhuta were equally 
mixed. Men lived with each other in 
harmony and love, without any lust and’ 

The origin of medicine 
according to the # book Caraka 

ambition, hatred and envy, without anything that makes soul and 


India by Al-BiruvA 

body ill. But then came envy, and lust followed. Driven by lust, they 
strove to hoard up, which was difficult to some, easy to others. All 
kinds of thoughts, labours, and cares followed, and resulted in war, 
deceit, and lying. The hearts of men were hardened, the natures were 
altered and became exposed to diseases, which seized hold of men 
and made them neglect the worship of God and the furtherance of 
science. Ignorance became deeply rooted, and the calamity became 
great. Then the pious met before their anchorite Krisa (?) the son of 
Atreya, and deliberated; whereupon the sage ascended the mountain 
and threw himself on the earth. Thereafter God taught him the 
science of medicine.” 

[Similar Greek traditions are quoted, pp. 383-385]. 


On The Manavantaras 

As 72,000 halpas are reckoned as the life of Brahman, the 
manavantara , i.e. period of Manu, is reckoned as the life of Indra, 

whose rule ends with the end of the 
TCie single manavantaras , period. His post is occupied by another 

children of Indra Indra, who then rules the world m the 

new manavantara. .,. 

[A Table, showing the (lumber (14) and names of the manavan¬ 
taras, according to the Vishnu-Purana, Vishnu-Dharma and some othei 
sources, and the names of Indra and the children of Manu, the king 
of the earth who ruled at the beginning of each period, is given. 
Explaining the variations in the names of some of the manavantaras, 
Al-Biruni comments on the excessive concern of the Hindus with 
names. He adds that they are more interested in names than the ‘the 
order in which they are recorded for the posterity’, pp. 387-388]. 


On The Constellation Of The Great Bear 

The Great Bear is in the Indian language called Saptarshayas, i.e. the 
Seven Rishis. They are said to have been anchorites who nourished 

themselves only with what it is allow- 
£ tra i! iti ? n r L elati " g to r able to eat, and with them there was a 

Vasishtha pious woman, Al-suha (Ursa Major, star 

80 by z). They plucked off the stalks of 
the lotus from the ponds to eat of them. Meanwhile came The Law 
(Dharma?) and concealed her from them. Every one of them felt 
ashamed of the other, and they swore oaths which were approved of 
by Dharma. In order to honour them, Dharma raised them to that 
place where they are now seen (sic). 

[A description of the Great Bear, as given in the Samhita of 
Varahamihira, is quoted. The differences in the statements of some 
Indian sources regarding the position of the Great Bear are 
examined and criticised. Al-Biruni makes an incidental but 
important remark that ‘our time’ (the time of the compilation of his 
account, i.e. 1030) corresponded with 952 of the Sakakala. This 
provides corroborative evidence on the concordance of the Saka era, 
pp. 389-392. He concludes the chapter by observing that:] 
Mistakes and confusion such as we have here laid open arise, in 

On the Constellation of the Great Bear 


the first place, from the want of the necessary skill in astronomical 

researches, and secondly, from the 
Theological opinions Q f Hindus of mixing up scienti- 

fic questions with religious traditions. 
For the theologians believe that the Seven Rishis stand higher than the 
fixed stars, and they maintain that in each manavantara there will 
appear a new Manu, whose children will destroy the earth, but the 
rule will be renewed by Indra, as also the different classes of the 
angels and the Seven Rishis. The angels are necessary, for mankind 
must offer sacrifices to them and must bring to the fire the shares for 
them; and the Seven Rishis are necessary, because they must renew 
the Veda, for it perishes at the end of each manavantara. 

Our information on this subject we take from the Vishnu-Parana. 

From the same source we have taken die names of the Seven Rishis 

in each manavantara, as exhibited by the 

The Seven Rishis in the following Table:— 

different manavantaras ° 

[A Table showing Seven Rishis or the 
stars of the Great Bear in the 14 manavantaras is given. P. 394]. 


On Narayana, His Appearance At Different 
Times And His Names 

Narayana is according to the Hindus a supernatural power, which 
does not on principle try to bring about the good by the good, nor 

~ 4 . the bad by the bad, but to prevent the 

On the nature of Narayana evil and destruction by whatever means 

. . happen to be available. For this force 

the good exists prior to the bad, but if the good does not properly 
develop nor is available, it uses the bad, this being unavoidable In 
so doing, it may be compared to a rider who has got into the midst of 
a cornfie d. When he then comes back to his senses, and wants to 
avoid evil-doing and to get out of the mischief he has committed, he 
has no other means but that of turning his horse back and riding out 
on the same road on which he has entered the field, though in going 
out he will do as much mischief as he has done in entering, and even 

m °L?' t J here 1S no other Possibility of making amends save this. 

he Hindus do not distinguish between this force and the First 
Cause of their philosophy. Its dwelling in the world is of such a nature 
dial people compare it to a material existence, an appearance in 

body and colour, since they cannot conceive any other kind of 

On N ar ay ana and His Names 


Besides other times, Narayana has appeared at the end of the first 
manavantara to take away the rule of the worlds from Va.akhily (0, 
who had given it the name, and wanted to take it into h,s own hands. 
Narayana came and handed it over to Satakratu, the pe ormer o 

hundred sacrifices, and made him Indra. 

IA story is narrated about how Narayana appeared again at the 
end of the sixth manavantara and killed King Bali, son o irocana, 

PP jn^another^passage of the same book /Vishnu-Parana/ we read: 
“Vishnu, i.e. another name for Narayana, comes at the end of each 
dvaparn to divide the Veda into four parts, because men are feeble 
and unable to observe the whole of it. In his face he resemb e. 

Vy [The names of the Vyasas of the seventh manavantara are enu- 
merated, pp. 398-399]. 



On Vasudeva And The Wars Of The Bharata 

The life of the world depends upon sowing and procreating. Both 
processes increase in the course of time, and this increase is 

unlimited, whilst the world is limited. 

Analogies of the course 
of nature to the 
history of mankind 

When a class of plants or animals 
does not increase any more in its 
structure, and its peculiar kind is 

established as a species of its own, when each individual of it does not 
simply come into existence once and perish, but besides procreates a 
being like itself or several together, and not only once but several 
times, then this will as a single species of plants or animals occupy 
the earth and spread itself and its kind over as much territory as it 
can find. 

The agriculturist selects his com, letting grow as much as he 
requires, and tearing out the remainder. The forester leaves those 
branches which he perceives to be excellent, whilst he cuts away all 
others. The bees kill those of their kind who only eat, but do not work 
in their beehive. 

Nature proceeds in a similar way; however, it does not distinguish, 
for its action is under all circumstances one and the same. It allows 
the leaves and fruit of the trees to perish, thus preventing them from 

On Vasudeva and the Wars of the Bharata 


realising that result which they are intended to produce in the 
economy of nature. It removes them so as to make room for others. 

If thus the earth is ruined, or is near to be ruined, by having too 
many inhabitants, its ruler—for it has a ruler, and his all-embracing 
care is apparent in every single particle of it—sends it a messenger 
for the purpose of reducing the too great number and of cutting away 
all that is evil. 

A messenger of this kind is, according to the belief of the Hindus, 
Vasudeva, who was sent the last time in human shape, being called 

Vasudeva. It was a time when the 
Stop of the birth giants were numerous on earth and 

° asu eva the earth was full of their oppression; it 

tottered, being hardly able to bear the whole number of them, and it 
trembled from the vehemence of their treading. Then there was bom 
a child in the city of Mathura to Vasudeva by the sister of Kamsa, at 
that time ruler of the town. They were a Jatt family, cattle-owners, 
low Sudra people. Kamsa had learned, by a voice which he heard at 
the wedding of his sister, that he would perish at the hands of her 
child; therefore, he appointed people who were to bring him every 
child of hers ... and he killed all her children ... Finally, she gave 
birth to Balbhadra, and Yasoda, the wife of the herdsman Nanda, 
took the child to herself ... Thereupon she became pregnant an 
eighth time, and gave birth to Vasudeva in a rainy night of the eighth 
day of the black half of the month of Bhadrapada ... As the guards 
had fallen into deep sleep ... the father stole the child and brought it 
to Nandkula, i.e. the stable of the cows of Nanda, near Mathura ... 
Vasudeva grew up under the care of his foster-mother Yasoda 
without her knowing that he had been exchanged for her daughter... 
but Kamsa got some inkling of the matter. ... 

[The account of the war between the Kauravas and Pandus is as 

follows :] 

The children of Kaurava (i.e Dhritarashtra) had the charge of 
their cousins (the children of Pandu). Dhritarashtra received them 
and played dice with them, the last stake being their whole property. 
They lost more and more, until he laid upon them the obligation of 
expatriation for more than ten years, and of concealment in the 
remotest part of the country, where nobody knew them. If they did 
not keep this engagement they would be bound to return into 
banishment for a like number of years. This engagement was carried 
out, but finally came the time of their coming forward for battle. 


India by Al-Biruni 

Now each party began to assemble their whole number and to sue 
for allies, till at last nearly innumerable hosts had gathered in the 
plain of Taneshar. There were eighteen akshauhini Each party tried 
to gain Vasudeva as ally, whereupon he offered either himself or his 
brother Balabhadra together with an army. But the children of Pandu 
preferred him. They were five men—Yudhishthira, their leader, 
Aijuna, the bravest of them, Sahadeva, Bhimasena, and Nakula. 
They had seven akshauhini, whilst their enemies were much stronger. 
But for the cunning devices of Vasudeva and his teaching them 
whereby they might gain victory, they would have been in a less 
favourable situation than their enemies. But now they conquered; all 
those hosts were destroyed, and none remained except the five 
brothers. Thereafter Vasudeva returned to his residence and died, 
together with his family, who were called Yadava. Also the five 
brothers died before the year had reached its end, at the end of those 

[Al-Biruni gives some further details of the end of Vasudeva and 
of the five Pandu brothers. One among the brothers and relations of 
Vasudeva went to a Rishi, Durvasa, with a frying-pan hid under his 
coat and asked him about the result of his pregnancy. The Rishi, 
annoyed at thus being jeered at, said the thing in his belly would 
cause his, and his clansmen’s, death. Vasudeva who knew that the 
curse would come true got the pan filed and thrown in a river. One 
small piece of it was eaten by a fish, and a fisherman who caught the 
fish and cut it got an arrow-head made of that bit. It was from this 
arrow that Vasudeva, while sitting cross-legged under a tree, was 
shot by a fisherman who mistook him for a gazelle. Out of the other 
bits of filed pan a bardi bush had grown. When the Yadavas reached 
near it and sat drinking, a quarrel occurred among them and they 
killed each other with the bardi bundles. Aijuna, who had been 
ordered by Vasudeva to bum his body and carry away the women 
was attacked by robbers on the way. Though he beat them off he felt 
that his strength was failing him. He and his brothers, therefore 
‘emigrated’ to the north and entered the mountains. The cold killed 
them one after the other, (Pp. 404-406). 


An Explanation Of The Measure Of An 


Each akshauhini 

has 10 antkini. 

” antkini 

” 3 camu 

99 camu 

” 3 pritana 

” pritana 

” 3 vahini 

99 vahini 

” 3 gana 

99 gana 

” 3 gulma 

” gulma 

3 senamukha 

” senamukha 

” 3 patti 

” patti 

” 1 ratha 

In chess, the latter is called rukh, whilst Greeks call it chariot of war. 
It was invented by Manhalus (Myrtilos?) in Athens, and the 
Athenians maintain that they were the first who rode on chariots of 
war. However, before that time they had already been invented by 
Aphrodisias (sic) the Hindu, when he ruled over Egypt, about 900 
years after the deluge. They were drawn by two horses. ... 

A ratha comprehends besides, one elephant, three riders, and five 

All these orders and divisions are necessary for the preparation for 
battle, for pitching camp and breaking up camp. 

188 India by Al-Birum 

An akshauhini has 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 65,610 
riders, 109,350 footmen. 

To each chariot there belong four horses and their conductor, the 
master of the chariot, armed with arrows, his two companions armed 
with spears, a guard who protects the master from behind, and a 

On each elephant there sits its conductor, and behind him the vice¬ 
conductor, a man who has to goad the elephant behind the chair, the 
master, armed with arrows, in the chair, and together with him his 
two spear-throwing companions and his jester, hauhava (?), who on 
other occasions runs before him. 

Accordingly the number of people who ride on chariots and 
elephants is 284,323 (sic). The number of those who ride on horses 
is 87,480. The number of elephants in an akshauhini is 21,870; the 
number of chariots, too, is 21,870; the number of horses is 153,090; 
the number of men, 459,283. 

The sum-total of the living beings of one akshauhini, elephants, 
horses, and men, is 634,243; the same number for eighteen 
akshauhini is 11,416,374, viz. 393,660 elephants, 2,755,620 horses, 
8,267,094 men. 

This is an explanation of the akshauhini, and of its single parts. 


A Summary Description Of The Eras 

Enumeration of some of 
the eras of the Hindus 

The eras serve to fix certain moments of time which are mentioned 
in some historical or astronomical connection. The Hindus do not 

consider it wearisome to reckon with 
huge numbers, but rather enjoy it. Still, 
in practical use, they are compelled to 
replace them by smaller (more handy) ones. 

Of their eras we mention— 

1. The beginning of the existence of Brahman. 

2. The beginning of the day of the present nychthemeron of 
Brahman, i.e. the beginning of the kalpa. 

3. The beginning of the seventh marmvantara, in which we are 

4. The beginning of the twenty-eighth calutyuga, in which we are 


5. The beginning of the fourth yuga of the present calutyuga, called 
kalika/a i.e. the time of Kali. The whole yuga is called after him, 
though, accurately speaking, his time falls only in the last part of the 
yuga. Notwithstanding, the Hindus mean by kalikala the beginning of 

the kaliyuga. 

6. /'audava-ka/a, i.e. the time of the life and the wars of Bharata. 


India by Al-Biruni 

All these eras vie with each other in antiquity, the one going back 
to a still more remote beginning than the other, and the sums of years 
which they afford go beyond hundreds, thousands, and higher orders 
of numbers. Therefore not only astronomers, but also other people, 
think it wearisome and unpractical to use them. 

In order to give an idea of these eras, we shall use a first gauge or 
point of comparison that Hindu year the great bulk of which 

coincides with the year 400 of Yazdajird. 
400 ‘^test-year This number consists only of hundreds, 

not of units and tens, and by this peculi¬ 
arity it is distinguished from all other years that might possibly be 
chosen. Besides, it is a memorable time; for the breaking of the 
strongest pillar of the religion, the decease of the pattern of a prince, 
Mahmud, the lion of the world, the wonder of his time—may God 
have mercy upon him!—took place only a short time, less than a 
year, before it. The Hindu year precedes the Nauroz or new year’s 
day of this year only by twelve days, and the death of the prince 
occurred precisely ten complete Persian months before it. 

Now, presupposing this our gauge as known, we shall compute the. 
years for this point of junction, which is the beginning of the cor- 11 
responding Hindu year, for the end of all years which come into 
question coincides with it, and the Nauroz of the year 400 of 
Yazdajird falls only a little later (viz. twelve days). 

[On the basis of extracts from various Indian scriptures and 
scientific treatises, Al-Biruni calculates the following: (a) how much 
of the life of Brahman has elapsed, (b) the period of Rama and (c) 
how much time has elapsed of the current kaliyuga. 

He goes on to give brief explanatory account of the origin of the 
following more important and prevalent eras of (1) Sri Harsha, (2) 
Vikramaditya, (3) Saka, (4) Valabha, and (5) Gupta. [Pp. 2-5]. 

The Hindus believe regarding Sri'Harsha that he used to examine 
the soil in order to see what of hidden treasures was in its interior, as 

far down as the seventh earth; that, in 
Era of Sri Harsha fact, he found such treasures; and that, 

in consequence, he could dispense with 
oppressing his subjects (by taxes, etc). His era is used in Mathura 
and the country of Kanoj. Between Sri Harsha and Vikramaditya 
there is an interval of 400 years, as I have been told by some of the 
inhabitants of that region. However in the Kashmirian calendar I 
have read that Sri Harsha was 664 years later than Vikramaditya. In 

Description of the Eras 


face of this discrepancy I am in perfect uncertainty, which to the 
present moment has not yet been cleared up by any trustworthy 

Those who use the era of Vikramaditya live in the southern and 
western parts of India. It is used in the following way: 342 are 

multiplied by 3, which gives the product 
Era of Sri Vikramaditya 1,026. To this number you add the 

years which have elapsed of the current 
shashtyabda or sexagesimal samvatsara, and the sum is the correspond¬ 
ing year of the era of Vikramaditya. ... 

The epoch of the era of Saka or Sakakala falls 135 years later than 
that of Vikramaditya. The here-mentioned Saka tyrannised over 

their country between the river Sindh 
The Sakakala and the ocean, after he had made 

Aryavarta in the midst of this realm his 
dwelling-place. He interdicted the Hindus from considering and 
representing themselves as anything but Sakas. Some maintain that 
he was a Sudra from the city of Almansura; others maintain that he 
was not a Hindu at all, and that he had come to India from the west. 
The Hindus had much to suffer from him, till at last they received 
help from the east, when Vikramaditya marched against him, put 
him to fight and killed him in the region of Karur, between Multan 
and the castle of Loni. Now this date became famous, as people 
rejoiced in the news of the death of the tyrant, and was used as the 
epoch of an era, especially by the astronomers. They honour the 
conqueror by adding Sri to his name, so as to say Sri Vikramaditya. 
Since there is a long interval between the era which is called the era 
of Vikramaditya and the killing of Saka, we think that Vikramaditya 
from whom the era has got its name is not identical with that one who 
killed Saka, but only a namesake of his. 

The era of Valabha is called so from Valabha, the ruler of the town 
Valabhi, nearly 30 yojanas south of Anhilvara. The epoch of this era 

falls 241 years later than the epoch of 
Era of Valabha the Saka era. People use it in this way. 

They first put down the year of the 
Sakakala, and then subtract from it the cube of 6 and the square of 5 
(216 + 25 = 241). The remainder is the year of the Valabha era. The 
history of Valabha is given in its proper place (cf. chap. xvii). 

As regards the Guptakala, people say that the Guptas were 
wicked, powerful people, and that when they ceased to exist this date 


India by Al-Biruni 


was used as the epoch of an era. It 
seems that Valabha was the last of 
them, because the epoch of the era of 
the Guptas falls, like that of the Valabha era, 241 years later than 
the Sakakala. 

The era of the astronomers begins 587 years later then the Sakakala. 

On this era is based the canon Khanda- 
Era of the astronomers khadyaka by Brahmagupta, which 

among Muhammadans is known as A l- 

arkand. . .. 

Common people in India date by the years of a centennium, which 
they call samvatsara. If a centennium is finished, they drop it* and 

simply begin to date by a new one. This 
On the popular mode of era j s called lokakala i.e.,the era of the 

™l b L“ ntenn ' a ° f nation at large. But of this era people 

give such totally different accounts, that 
I have no means of making out the truth. In a similar manner they 
also differ among themselves regarding the beginning of the year. On 
the latter subject I shall communicate what I have heard myself, 
hoping meanwhile that one day we shall be able to discover a rule in 
this apparent confusion. 

[The different beginnings of the year, as current in the different 
parts of the country, are given Pp. 8-9]. 

I have already before excused myself on account of the imper¬ 
fection of the information given in this chapter. For we cannot offer 

a strictly scientific account of the eras 
Popular mode of dating in to which it is devoted, simply because in 

3SS*. £*2““ *”“ them we have to reckon with periods of 

time far exceeding a centennium, and 
because all tradition of events farther back than a hundred years is 
confused. ... 

The Hindus had kings residing in Kabul; Turks who were said to 

be of Tibetan origin. The first of them, Barhatakin, came into the 

country and entered a cave in Kabul, 

Origin Of the dynasty of wh i c h none could enter except by 

the Shahs of Kabul . , t . 

creeping on hands and knees. The cave 

had water, and besides he deposited their victuals for a certain 

number of days. It is still known in our time, and is called Var. People 

who consider the name of Barhatakin as a good omen enter the cave, 

and bring out some of its water with great trouble. 

Description of the Eras 


Certain troops of peasants were working before the door of the 
cave. Tricks of this kind can only be carried out and become 
notorious, if their author has made a secret arrangement with some¬ 
body else—in fact, with confederates. Now these had induced 
persons to work there continually day and night in turns, so that the 
place was never empty of people. 

Some days after he had entered the cave, he began to creep out of 
it in the presence of the people, who looked on him as a new-born 
baby. He wore Turkish dress, a short tunic open in front, a high hat, 
boots and arms. Now people honoured him as a being of miraculous 
origin, who had been destined to be king and in fact he brought those 
countries under his sway and ruled them under the title of a shahiya of 
Kabul. The rule remained among his descendants for generations, the 
number of which is said to be about sixty. 

Unfortunately the Hindus do not pay much attention to the 
historical order of things, they are very careless in relating the 
chronological succession of their kings, and when they are pressed 
for information and are at a loss, not knowing what to say, they 
invariably take to tale-telling. But for this, we should communicate 
to the reader the traditions which we have received from some 
people among them. I have been told that the pedigree of this royal 
fanjily, written on silk, exists in the fortress Nagarkot, and I much 
desired to make myself acquainted with it, but the thing was 
impossible for various reasons. 

[There follows a story about how one of the rulers of this dynasty, 
Kanik, ‘who is said to have built the vihara of Purushavar’ was 
imprisoned and displaced by his Vazir. ‘After him’ ruled the 
Brahman kings.] 

The last king of this race was Lagaturman, and his Vazir was 
Kallar, a Brahman. The latter had been fortunate, insofar as he had 

found by accident hidden treasures, 
which gave him much influence and 
power. In consequence, the last king of 
this Tibetan house, after it had held the 
royal power for so long a period, let it by degrees slip from his hands. 
Besides, Lagaturman had bad manners and a worse behaviour, on 
account of which people complained of him greatly to the Vazir. 
Now the Vazir put him in chains and imprisoned him for correction, 
but then he himself found ruling sweet, his riches enabled him to 
carry out his plans, and so he occupied the royal throne. After him 

End of the Tibetan 
dynasty, and origin of 
the Brahman dynasty 


India by Al-lliruni 

ruled the Brahman kings Samand 1 '’ (Samanta), Kamalu, Bhim 
(Bhima), Jaipal (Jayapala), Anandapala, Tarojanapala (Trilocana- 
pala). The latter >vas killed A.H. 412 (A.D. 1021), and his son 
Bhimapala five years later (A.D. 1026). 

This Hindu Shahiya dynasty is now extinct, and of the whole 
house there is no longer the slightest remnant in existence. We must 
say that, in all their grandeur, they never slackened in the ardent 
desire of doing that which is good and right, that they were men of 
noble sentiment and noble bearing. I admire the following passage in 
a letter of Anandapala, which he wrote to the prince Mahmud, when 
the relations between them were already strained to the utmost: “I 
have learned that the Turks have rebelled against you and arc 
spreading in Khurasan. If you wish, I shall come to you with 5.000 
horsemen, 10,000 foot-soldiers, and 100 elephants, or, if you wish, 
I shall send you my son with double the number. In acting thus, I do 
not speculate on the impression which this will make on you. I have 
been conquered by you, and therefore I do not wish that another man 
should conquer you.” 

The same prince cherished the bitterest hatred against the 
Muhammadans from the time when his son was made a prisoner, 
whilst his son Tarojanapala (Trilocanapala) was the very opposite of 
his father. 


How Many Star-Cycles There Are Both In A 
“Kalpa” And In A “Caturyuga” 

It is one of the conditions of a kalpa that in it the planets, with their 
apsides and nodes, must unite in 0° of Aries, i.e. in the point of the 
vernal equinox. Therefore each planet makes within a kalpa certain 
number of complete revolutions or cycles. 

These star-cycles as known through the canon of Alfazari and 
Ya’kub Ibn Tarik, were derived from a Hindu who came to Bagdad 

as a member of the political mission 

ail'd YaSbn which Sindh sent to the Khalif Almansur 

A.H. 154 (= A.D. 771). If we compare 
these secondary statements with the primary statements of the 
Hindus, we discover discrepancies, the cause of which is not known 
to me. Is their origin due to the translation of Alfazari and Ya’kub? 
Or to the dictation of that Hindu? Or to the fact that afterwards these 
computations have been corrected by Brahmagupta, or someone 

else? For, certainly, any scholar who 
becomes aware of mistakes in astrono¬ 
mical computations and takes an interest 
in the subject, will endeavour to correct them, as, e.g. Muhammad 
Ibn Ishak of Sarakhs has done. ... 

Muhammad Ibn 
Ishak of Sarakhs 


India by Al-Biruni 

Brahmagupta relates a different theory regarding the cycles of the 
apsides and nodes of the moon, on the authority of Aryabhata. We 

quote this from Brahmagupta, for we 
Brahmagupta U ° ted by could not read it in the original work of 

Aryabhata, but only in a quotation in 

the work of Brahmagupta. 

[A Table showing the names of the planets, the number of their 
revolutions in a kalpa, and the number of the revolutions of their 
apsides and nodes, is given, p. 16]. 

... Alfazari and Ya’kub sometimes heard from their Hindu 
master expressions to this effect, that his calculation of the star 

cycles was that of the great Siddhanta, 

A^abhatta‘among oTeTrabs whllst Aryabhata reckoned with one- 

thousandth part of it. They apparently did 
not understand him properly, and imagined that Aryabhata (Arab, 
arjabhad) meant a thousandth part. The Hindus pronounce the <1 of this 
word something between a d and an r. So the consonant became 
changed to an >, and people wrote arjabhar. Afterwards it was still 
more mutilated, the first r being changed toa; and so people wrote 
azjabhar. If the word in this garb wanders back to the Hindus, they 
will not recognise it. ... 


An Explanation Of The Terms “Adhimasa” 
“Unaratra”, And The “Aharganas”, As 
Representing Different Sums Of Days 

The months of the Hindus are lunar, their years solar; therefore their 
new year’s day must in each solar year fall by so much earlier as the 

lunar year is shorter than the solar 
On the leap month (roughly speaking, by eleven days). If 

this precession makes up one complete 
month, they act in the same way as the Jews, who make the year a 
leap year of thirteen months by reckoning the month Adar twice, and 
in a similar way to the heathen Arabs, who in a so-called annus 
procrastinationis postponed the new year’s day, thereby extending the 
preceding year to the duration of thirteen months. 

The Hindus call the year in which a month is repeated in the 
common language malamasa. Mala means the dirt that clings to the 
hand. As such dirt is thrown away, thus the leap month is thrown 
away out of the calculation, and the number of the months of a year 
remains twelve. However, in the literature the leap month is called 

That month is repeated within which (it being considered as a 
solar month) two lunar months finish. If the end of the lunar month 


India by Al-Bimni 

coincides with the beginning of the solar month, if, in fact, the former 
ends before any part of the latter has elapsed, this month is repeated, 
because the end of the lunar month, although it has not yet run into 
the new solar, still does no longer form part of the preceding month. 

If a month is repeated, the first time it has its ordinary name, 
whilst the second time they add before the name the word dura to 
distinguish between them. If, e.g. the month Ashadha is repeated, the 
first is called Ashadha, the second Durashadha. The first month is that 
which is disregarded in the calculation. The Hindus consider it as 
unlucky, and do not celebrate any of the festivals in it which they 
celebrate in the other months. The most unlucky time in this month 
is that day on which the lunation reaches its end. ... 

As regards adhimasa , the word means the first month , for AD means 
beginning (i.e. adi). In the books of Ya kub Ibn Tank and of Alfazari 
this name is written Padamasa, Pada (in the orig. P-Dh) means end, 
and it is possible that the Hindus call the leap month by both names; 
but the reader must be aware that these two authors frequently mis¬ 
spell or disfigure the Indian words, and that there is no reliance on 
their tradition. I only mention this because Pulisa explains the latter 
of the two months, which are called by the same name, as the super¬ 

numerary one. 

The month, as the time from one conjunction to the following, is 
one revolution of the moon, which revolves through the ecliptic, but 

in a course distant from that of the sun. 
Explanation of the terms This i s the difference between the 

anddayi ° r m ° nthS motions of the two heavenly luminaries, 

whilst the direction in which they move 

is the same. If we subtract the revolutions of the sun, i.e. the solar 
cycles of a kalpa, from its lunar cycles, the remainder shows how 
many more lunar months a kalpa has than solar months. All months 
or days which we reckon as parts of whole kalpa s we call here 
universal, and all months or days which we reckon as parts of a kalpa. 
e.g. of a caturyuga, we call partial, for the purpose of simplifying the 

The year has twelve solar months, and likewise twelve lunar 
months. The lunar is complete with twelve months, whilst the solar 

year, in consequence of the difference 
Universal adhimasa months of the two year kinds, has, with the 

addition of the adhimasa, thirteen 
months. Now evidently the difference between the universal solar 

Explanation oj Adhimasa, Unaratra and Aharganas 


and lunar months is represented by these sup.mume,ary mo„,hs b, 

which a single year is extended to thirteen months. These, therefore, 

are the universal adhimasa months. ... 

Regarding the cause which necessitates the unaratra. lit. the days 

Explanation of ,h„ » 4 * *° *»"*' ** 

uimralra following. 

If we have one year or a certain number of years, and reckon for 
each of them twelve months, we get the corresponding number ot 
solar months, and by multiplying the latter by 30, the corresponding 
number of the solar days. It is evident that lunar months or days o 
the same period is the same, plus an increase which forms one or 
several adhimasa months. If we reduce this increase to adhirmsa 
months due to the period of time in question, according to the 
relation between the universal solar months and the umvers 
adhimasa months, and add this to the months or days of the years m 
question, the sum represents the partial lunar days, i.e. those wh 

correspond to the given number of years. . 

This however, is not what is wanted. What we want is the numbe 
of civil days of the given number of years which arc less than the lunar 
days; for one civil day is greater than one lunar day. Therefore, in 
order to find that which is sought, we must subtract something from 
the number of lunar days, and this element which must be substract- 
ed is called unaratra. ... ‘ 


On The Calculation Of “Ahargana” In General 
That Is, The Resolution Of Years And Months 
Into Days, And, Vice Versa, The Composition 
Of Years And Months Out Of Days 

The general method of resolution is as follows:— 

The complete years are multiplied by 12; to the product are added 
the months which have elapsed of the current year (and this sum is 
^ , , multiplied by 30); to this product are 

find the savanahargana added the days which have elapsed of 

the current month. The sum represents 
the savanahargana, i.e. the sum of the partial solar days. 

You write down the number in two places. In the one place you 
multiply it by 5311, i.e. the number which represents the universal 
adhimasa months. The product you divide by 172,800, i.e. the 
number which represents the universal solar months. The quotient 
you get, as far as it contains complete days, is added to the number 
in the second place, and the sum represents the candrahargana, i.e. the 
sum of the partial lunar days. 

The latter number is again written down in two different places. In 
the one place you multiply it by 55,739, i.e. the number which 

On the Calculation of Ahargana in General 


More detailed rule for 
the same purpose 

represents the universal unaratra days, and divide the product by 
3,562,220, ie. the number which represents the universal lunar days. 
The quotient you get, as far as it represents complete days, is 
subtracted from the number written in the second place, and the 
remainder is the savanahargana, i.e. the sum of civil days which we 
wanted to find. 

However, the reader must know that this computation applies to 
dates in which there are only complete adhimasa and unaratra days, 

without any fraction. If, therefore a 
given number of years commences with 
the beginning of a kalpa, or a caturyuga, 
or a kaliyuga, this computation is correct. But if the given years begin 
with some other time, it may by chance happen that this comput¬ 
ation is correct, but possibly, too, it may result in proving the 
existence of adhimasa time, and in that case the computation would 
not be correct. Also, the reverse of these two eventualities may take 
place. However, if it is known with what particular moment in the 
kalpa, caturyuga, or kaliyuga, a given number of years commences, we 
use a special method of computation, which we shall hereafter 
illustrate by some examples. 

[The following points are dicussed in the remaining portion of the 
chapter: (a) the latter method applied to (i) the Sakakala 953, (ii) a 
caturyuga, according to the theory of Pulisa, (b) the method of 
ahargana employed by Aryabhatta and by Ya’qub Ibn Tariq, (c) 
method for the computation of the unaratra days according to 
Brahmagupta, (d) method for the calculation of adhimasa for the 
years of a kalpa, caturyuga or kaliyuga, and (e) rules for constructing a 
chronological date from a certain given number of days, the converse 
of ahargana. Pp. 28-45.] 


On The Ahargana, Or The Resolution Of Years 
Into Months, According To Special Rules 
Which Are Adopted In The Calendars For 
Certain Dates Or Moments Of Time 

Not all the eras which in the calendars are resolved into days have 
epochs falling at such moments of time when just an adhimasa or 

unaratra happens to be complete. There- 

applied tcf specfaTdates fore - the authors of the calendars 

require for the calculation of adhimasa 

and unaratra certain numbers which either must be added or 
subtracted if the calculation is to proceed in good order. We shall 
communicate to the reader whatever of these rules we happened to 
learn by the study of their calendars or astronomical handbooks. 

First, we mention the rule of the Khandakhadyaka, because this 
calendar is the best known of all, and preferred by the astronomers to 
all others. 

[Al-Biruni explains the rule of the Khandakhadyaka, which work 
was ‘preferred by the astronomers to all others’ as also that of some 
other astronomical works and examines their application to the 
gauge year adopted by him. Pp. 46-56.] 


On The Computation Of The Mean Places 
Of The Planets 

If we know the number of cycles of the planets in a kalpa or caturyuga, 
and further know how many cycles have elapsed at a certain moraen 

of time, we also know that the sum-total 
General method for the deter- Q f the days of the kalpa or caturyuga 
mination of the mean place of tan( j s : n the same relation to the sum- 
a planet at any g.ven Ume ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 

kalpa or caturyuga to the corresponding amount of planetary cycles. 
The most generally used method is this: 

The past days of the kalpa or caturyuga are multiplied by the eye es 
of the planet, or of its apsis, or of its node which it describes l "^ 
kalpa or caturyuga. The product is divided by the sum-total of the days 
of the kalpa or caturyuga accordingly as you reckon by the one or the 
other. The quotient represents complete cycles. These, howeve , 

because not wanted, are disregarded. ... .. ., 

The remainder which you get by the division is multiplied by 12, 
and the product is divided by the sum-total of the days of either 
or caturyuga by which we have already once divided. The quotient 
signs of .he ecliptic. The .encoder of >h.s dms,on . 
multiplied by 30, and the product divided by the same divisor. The 


India by Al-Biruni 

quotient represents degrees. The remainder of this division is 
multiplied by 60, and is divided by the same divisor. The quotient 
represents minutes. 

This kind of computation may be continued if we want to have 
seconds and minor values. The quotient represents the place of that 
planet according to its mean motion, or the place of that apsis or that 
node which we >vanted to find. 

[Mentions the method of Pulisa for the same purpose. Also 
mentions another method used by Brahmagupta and quotes extracts 

from Khandakhadyaka, Karanatilaka, etc. pp 58-60. Al-Biruni con¬ 
cludes by observing that,] 

... But these methods are very subtle, and are so numerous, that 
none of them has obtained any particular authority. Therefore, we 
refrain from reproducing them, as this would detain us too long and 
be of no use. 

The other methods of the computation of the mean places of the 
planets and similar calculations have nothing to do with the subject 
of the present book. 


Traditional view on the sun 
being below the moon 

On The Order Of The Planets, Their 
Distances And Sizes 

When speaking of the lokas, we have already given quotation from 
the Vishnu-Purana and from the commentary of Patanjali, according 

to which the place of the sun is in the 
order of the planets below that of the 
moon. This is the traditional view of the 

Hindus. ... , . 

We shall now give some quotations from the books of this school 

relating to the sun, the moon and the stars, and we shall combine 
herewith the views of the astronomers, although of the latter we have 
only a very slender knowledge. 

[Quotes the Vayu-Purana regarding the shape of the sun, its heat, 
light, etc. Pp. 62-64.] 

The Hindus believe regarding the bodies of all the stars that 
they have a globular shape, a watery essence, and that they do not 

shine, whilst the sun aloft is of fiery 
On the nature of the stars .essence, self-shining, and per accidens 

illuminates other stars when they stand 
opposite to him. They reckon, according to eyesight, among the stars 
also such luminous bodies as in reality are not stars, but the lights 


India by Al-Biruni 

into which those men have been metamorphosed who have received 
eternal reward from God, and reside in the height of heaven on 
thrones of crystal. ... 

All the stars are called tara, which word is derived from tarana, i.e. 
the passage. The idea is that those saints have passed through the 
wicked world and have reached bliss, and that the stars pass through 
heaven in a circular motion. The word nakshatra is limited to the stars 
of the lunar stations. As, however, all of these are called fixed stars, 
the word nakshatra also applies to all the fixed stars; for it means not 
increasing and not decreasing I for my part am inclined to think that this 
increasing and decreasing refers to their number and to the distances 
of the one from the other, but the author of the last-mentioned book 
( Vishnu-Dharma ) combines it with their light. 

[Quotes from various Indian scriptures regarding the diameters of 
the planets and the circumference of the fixed stars (pp. 65-66), and 

This is all we have been able to learn of the confused notions of 
the Hindus regarding these subjects. We shall now pass on to the 

views of the Hindu astronomers with 
Views of the Hindu whom we agree regarding the. order of 

subjects the planets and other topics, viz. that 

the sun is the middle of the planets, 
Saturn and the moon their two ends, and that the fixed stars are 
above the planets. Some of these things have already been 
mentioned in the preceding chapters. ... 

Every educated man among the Hindu theologians, and much 
more so among their astronomers, believes indeed that the moon is 
below the sun, and even below all the planets. 

The only Hindu traditions we have regarding the distances of the 
stars are those mentioned by Ya’kub Ibn Tarik in his book, The 

Composition of the Spheres, and he had 
drawn his information from the well- 
known Hindu scholar who, A.H. 161, 
accompanied an embassy to Bagdad. 

[A Table giving the names of the planets and showing their 
distances from the centre of the earth, their diameters, etc. is given. 
P. 68.] 

It is well-known among all astronomers that there is no possibility 
of distinguishing between the higher and the lower one of two planets 
except by means of the occultation or the increase of the parallax. 

Ya’kub Ibn Tank on the 
distances of the stars 

On the Order of the Planets, Their Distances and Sizes 207 

However, the occultation occurs only 
On occultation and ver y seldom, and only the parallax of a 

the parallax s [ ng i e planet, viz. the moon, can be 

observed Now the Hindus believe that the motions are equal, but 
the distances different. The reason why the higher planet moves 
more slowly than the lower is the greater extension of its sphere (or 
orbit); and the reason why the lower planet moves more rapidly is 
that its sphere or orbit is less extended. Thus, e.g. one minute in the 
sphere of Saturn is equal to 262 minutes in the sphere of the moon. 
Therefore, the times in which Saturn and the moon traverse the same 
space are different, whilst their motions are equal. 

I have never found a Hindu treatise on this subject, but only 
numbers relating thereto scattered in various books—numbers which 

are corrupt. . 

[In the remaining portion of the chapter, Al-Birum discusses the 
following points: (a) radii of the planets or their distances from the 
earth, (b) diameters of the planets, (c) methods for the computation 
of the bodies of the sun and the moon at any given time, (d) Brahma¬ 
gupta’s method for the computation of the diameter of the shadow, 
and (e) the computation of the diameters of the sun and the moon 
according to some other Indian sources. Pp. 70—80.] 


On The Stations Of The Moon 

The Hindus use the lunar stations exactly in the same way as the 
zodiacal signs. As the ecliptic is, by the zodiacal signs, divided into 
„ twelve equal parts, so, by the lunar 

lunar stations stations, it is divided into twenty-seven 

equal parts. Each station occupies 13W 
degrees, or 800 minutes of the ecliptic. The planets enter into them 
and leave them again, and wander to and fro through their northern 
and southern latitudes. The astrologers attribute to each station a 
special nature, the quality of foreboding events, and other particular 
characteristic traits, in the same way as they attribute them to the 
zodiacal signs. 

The number 27 rests on the fact that the moon passes through the 
whole ecliptic in 27W days, in which number the fraction of Vi may 

be disregarded. In a similar way, the 
Lunar stations of the Arabs Arabs determine their lunar stations as 

beginning with the moon’s first becom¬ 
ing visible in the west till her ceasing to be visible in the east. ... 

However, the Arabs are illiterate people, who can neither write 
nor reckon. They only rely upon numbers and eyesight. They have 
no other medium of research than eyesight, and are not able to 

On the Stations of the Moon 


determine the lunar stations without the fixed stars in them. If the 
Hindus want to describe the single stations, they agree with the 
AraJ>s regarding certain stars, whilst regarding others they differ 
from them. On the whole, the Arabs keep near to the moon’s path, 
and use, in describing the stations, only those fixed stars with which 
the moon either stands in conjunction at certain times, or through the 
immediate neighbourhood of which she passes. 

The Hindus do not strictly follow the same line, but also take into 
account the various positions of one star with reference to the other, 

e.g. one star’s standing in opposition or 
Whether the Hindus have j n the zenith of another. Besides, they 

lunar stations reckon also the Falling Eagle among 

the stations, so as to get 28. 

It is this which has led our astronomers and the authors of ’ anwa 
books astray; for they say that the Hindus have twenty-eight lunar 
stations, but that they leave out one which is always covered by the 
rays of the sun. Perhaps they may have heard that the Hindus call 
that station in which the moon is, the burning one; that station which it 
has just left, the left one after the embrace; and that station in which she 
will enter next, the smoking one. Some of our Muslim authors have 
maintained that the Hindus leave out the station Al-zubana, and 
account for it by declaring that the moon’s path is burning in the end 
of Libra and the beginning of Scorpio. 

All this is derived from one and the same source, viz. their opinion 
that the Hindus have twenty-eight stations, and that under certain 
circumstances they drop one. Whilst just the very opposite is the 
case; they have twenty-seven stations, and under certain circum¬ 
stances add one. ... 

The Hindus are very little informed regarding the fixed stars. I 

never came across any one of them who knew the single stars of the 

lunar stations from eyesight, and was 

Table of the lunar stations able to point them out to me with his 
taken from the Khanda- ^ 

khadyaka fingers. I have taken the greatest pains 

to investigate this subject, and to settle 
most of it by all sorts of comparisons, and have recorded the results 
of my research in a treatise on the determination of the lunar stations. Of 
their theories on this subject I shall mention as much as I think 
suitable in the present context. But before that I shall give the posi¬ 
tions of the stations in longitude and latitude and their numbers 
according to the canon Khandakhadyaka, facilitating the study of the 


India by Al-Biruni 

subject by comprehending all details in the following Table: 
[Table is given. Pp. 84-85.] 

My remark relating to the confused notions of the Hindus 

regarding the stars is confirmed, though this is perhaps not apparent 

to the Hindus themselves, e.g. by the 

The author criticises Vara- note of Varahamihira regarding Alsha- 
hamihira s statement . . ~ j 

ratan = Asvini, one of the first-mentioned 

six stations; for he says that in it observation precedes calculation. 
Now the two stars of Asvini stand, in our time, in two-thirds of Aries 

(i.e. between 10°-20° Aries), and the time of Varahamihira 
precedes our time by about 526 years. Therefore by whatever theory 
you may compute the motion of the fixed stars (or precession of the 
equinoxes), the Asvini did, in his time, certainly not stand in less 
than one-third of Aries (i.e. they had not come in the precession of 
the equinoxes farther than to 1® -10° Aries). 

[Al-Biruni also criticises what he regards as the ‘scantiness of the 
knowledge of the Hindus regarding the motion of the fixed stars’, and 
as an example of it he quotes an extract from Varahamihira’s 

Samhita. Pp. 88—89.] 


On The Heliacal Risings Of The Stars, And 
On The Ceremonies And Rites Which The 
Hindus Practise At Such A Moment 

The Hindu method for the computation of the heliacal risings of the 
stars and the young moon is, as we think, the same as is explained 

in the canones called Sindhind. They call 
How far a star must be the degrees of a star’s distance from the 

order to become visible sun which are thought necessary for its 

heliacal rising kalamsaka. 

Evidently the stars have, in this respect, been divided into three 
groups, the first of which seems to comprise the stars reckoned by 
the Greeks as stars of the first and second magnitude, the second the 
stars of the third and fourth magnitude, and the third the stars of the 
fifth and sixth magnitude. 

Brahmagupta ought to have given this classification in his 
emendation of the Khandakhadyaka, but he has not done so. He 
expresses himself in general phrases, and simply mentions 14° 
distance from the sun as necessary for the heliacal risings of all lunar 

[The method for the computation of the heliacal rising of Agastya, 
i.e. Suhail or Canopus is given; also extracts from Brahmagupta’s 


India by Al-Biruni 

emendation of the Khandakhadyaka. P. 91.] 

The book Sarnhita mentions certain sacrifices and ceremonies 

which are practised at the heliacal risings of various stars. We shall 

now record them, translating also that 

0n the ceremonies practised which is rather chaff than wheat since 
at the heliacal rising of . , . 

certain stars we have made it obligatory on ourselves 

to give the quotations from the books of 
the Hindus complete and exactly as they are. 

[Long extracts from Varahamihira’s on the heliacal risings of 
Agastya, Rohini, Svati and Sravana, and the appropriate sacrifices 
for the occasion. Pp. 92-100.] 


How Ebb And Flow Follow Each Other 
In The Ocean 

| The chapter begins by quoting the story of King Aurva from the 
Matsya-Rurana ‘with regard to the cause why the water of the ocean 
remains as it is.’ The king had become very angry with the angels but 
was later conciliated and advised to throw ‘the fire of his wrath’ in 
the ocean. The fire absorbs the water and keeps it from overflowing. 

Then follows the story of Prajapati’s curse upon moon and its 
affliction with leprosy. Later, the moon repented and sought Praja¬ 
pati’s favour in getting the trace of the sin wiped off. Prajapati said 
that it could be done by erecting the shape of the linga of Mahadeva 
as an object of the moon’s worship. That was done and the linga 
raised was the stone of Somanath. 

Al-Biruni then, in a very rare reference to a political event, 
mentions the destruction of the Somanath temple by Sultan Mahmud. 
More important is the reference to the economic basis of the 
importance of Somanath—it being an important port used by the 
merchants trading with the people on the eastern African coast and 
with that of China, Pp. 101-102.) 

... soma means the moon and nut ha means master, so that the 
whole word [Somanath] means master of the moon The image was 


India by Al-Biruni 

The idol of Somanath 

destroyed by the Prince Mahmud— 
may God be merciful to him!—A.H. 
416. He ordered the upper part to be 
broken and the remainder to be transported to his residence, 
Ghaznin, with all its coverings and trappings of gold, jewels, and 
embroidered garments. Part of it has been thrown into the hippo¬ 
drome of the town, together with the Cakrasvarnin , an idol of bronze, 
that had been brought from Taneshar. Another part of the idol from 
Somanath lies before the door of the mosque of Ghaznin, on which 
people rub their feet to clean them from dirt and wet. 

The linga is an image of the penis of Mahadeva, as follows: 

[Al-Biruni then interjects a brief 
Origin of the linga account of the origin of the linga and the 

specifications regarding its construction, 
as given in Varahamihira’s Brihatsamhita.] 

In the south-west of the Sindh country this idol is frequently met 
with in the houses destined for the worship of the Hindus, but 

Somanath was the most famous of these 
of 1 Somanath ° f the ‘ do1 places. Every day they brought there a 

jug of Ganges water and a basket of 
flowers from Kashmir. They believed that the linga of Somanath 
would cure persons of every inveterate illness and heal every 
desperate and incurable disease. 

The reason why in particular Somanath has become so famous is 
that it was a harbour for seafaring people, and a station for those who 
went to and fro between Sufala in the country of the Zanj and China. 

Now as regards ebb and flow in the Indian Ocean, of which the 
former is called bharna (?), the latter vuhara (?), we state that, accord¬ 
ing to the notions of the common 
Hindus, there is a fire called Vadavanala 
in the ocean, which is always blazing. 
The flow is caused by the fire’s drawing breath and its being blown 
up by the wind, and the ebb is caused by the fire’s exhaling the 
breath and the cessation of its being blown up by the wind. 

It is flow and ebb to which Somanath owes its name (i.e. master of 
the moon); for the stone (or linga) of Somanath was originally 
erected on the coast , a little less than three miles west of the mouth 
of the river Sarsuti, east of the golden fortress Baroi, which had 

Popular belief about the 
cause of the tides 

Origin of the sacredness 
of Somanath 

appeared as a dwelling-place for Vasu- 
deva, not far from the place where he 


How Ebb And Flow Follow Each Other 

and his family were killed, and where they were burned. Each time 
when the moon rises and sets, the water of the ocean rises in the 
flood so as to cover the place in question. When, then, the moon 
reaches the meridian of noon and midnight, the water recedes in the 
ebb and the place becomes again visible. Thus the moon was per¬ 
petually occupied in serving the idol and bathing it. Therefore the 
place was considered as sacred to the -moon. The fortress which 
contained the idol and its treasures was not ancient, but was built 
only about a hundred years ago. ... 


On The Solar And The Lunar Eclipses 

It is perfectly known to the Hindu astronomers that the moon is 
eclipsed by the shadow of the earth, and the sun is eclipsed by the 
moon. Hereon they have based their computations in the astro- 
nomical handbooks and other works. 

[Extracts from Varahamihira’s Samhita are quoted regarding the 
explanations for the phenomena of solar and lunar eclipses. Varaha- 
mihira is quoted as stating that “an eclipse of the moon is her 
entering the shadow of the earth, and an eclipse of the sun consists in 
this that the moon covers and hides the sun from us. Therefore the 
lunar eclipse will never revolve from the west, nor the solar eclipse 
from the east.” Varahamihira also refers to the popular, unscienti¬ 
fic notions about the eclipses, and states that, “However, common 
people are always loud in proclaiming the Head to be the cause of an 
eclipse, and they say, ‘If the Head did not appear and did not bring 
about the eclipse, the Brahmans would not at that moment undergo 
an obligatory washing.’”, (Pp. 107-09). 

Al-Biruni expresses surprise as to why Varahamihira, who by his 
former explanation had ‘already revealed himself to us as a man who 
accurately knows the shape of the world’ was repeating such notions. 
Perhaps, he did so because he wanted ‘to side with the Brahmans, to 

On the Solar and the Lunar Eclipses 


whom he belonged, and from whom he could not separate himself. 
Still, he could not be blamed too much, as on the whole, his foot 
stands firmly on the basis of truth’. ... p. 110.] 

Al-Biruni then refers to the views of Brahmagupta on the eclipses, 
and quotes the first chapter of Brahmasiddhanta as follows:— 
“Some people think that the eclipse is not caused by the Head. 
This, however, is a foolish idea, for it is he in fact who eclipses, and 

the generality of the inhabitants of the 
world say that it is the Head who 
eclipses. The Veda, which is the word of 

Quotation from the 


God from the mouth of Brahman, says that the Head eclipses, like¬ 
wise the book Smriti, composed by Manu, and the Samhita, composed 
by Garga the son of Brahman. On the contrary, Varahamihira, 
Srishena, Aryabhatta, and Vishnucandra maintain that the eclipse is 
not caused by the Head, but by the moon and the shadow of the 
earth, in direct opposition to all (to the generality of men), and from 
enmity against the just-mentioned dogma. For if the Head does not 
cause the eclipse, all the usages of the Brahmans which they practise 
at the moment of an eclipse, viz. their rubbing themselves with warm 
oil, and other works of prescribed worship, would be illusory and not 
be rewarded by heavenly bliss. If a man declares these things to be 
illusory, he stands outside of the generally acknowledged dogma, 
and that is not allowed.” 

[Al-Biruni again expresses surprise as to why Brahmagupta, who 
was ‘certainly one of the most distinguished among their astronomers’ 
was reiterating such unscientific views, and remarks:] 

Brahmagupta says, “The generality thinks thus. If he thereby 
means the totality of the inhabitants of the inhabitable world, we can 
only say that he would be very little able to investigate their opinions 
either by exact research or by means of historical tradition. For 
India itself is, in comparison to the whole inhabitable world, only a 
small matter, and the number of those who differ from the Hindus, 
both in religion and law, is larger than the number of those who agree 
• with them. 

Or, if Brahmagupta means the generality of the Hindus, we agree that 
the uneducated among them are much more numerous than the 

Possible excuses for 

educated; but we also point out that in 
all our religious codes of divine revela¬ 
tion the uneducated crowd is blamed as 

being ignorant, always doubting, and ungrateful. 


India by Al-Biruni 

I, for my part, am inclined to the belief that that which made 
Brahmagupta speak the above-mentioned words (which involve a sin 
against conscience) was something of a calamitous fate, like that of 
Socrates, which had befallen him, notwithstanding the abundance of 
his knowledge and the sharpness of his intellect and notwithstanding 
his extreme youth at the time. For he wrote the Bmhmasiddhanla 
when he was only thirty years of age. If this indeed is his excuse, we 
accept it, and herewith drop the matter. ... 

[Al-Biruni also suggests a little earlier that Brahmagupta was 
presenting such an unscientific explanation probably because, as 
a Brahman, he was supporting the popular notions preached by 
them. Or, maybe, by repeating those silly ideas he was mocking the 
men who advocated them!). 


On The Parvan 

The intervals between which an eclipse may happen and the 

number of their lunations are sufficiently demonstrated in the 

sixth chapter of Almagest. The Hindus 

Explanation of the ca n a 0 f-time at the beginning 

term paruan r 

and end of which there occur lunar 

eclipses, parvan 

[Some information on the subject is quoted from Varahamihira’s 
Samhita, and a Table showfng the cycle of eclipses and the ‘parti¬ 
cular dominant and prognostics’ of each one of them is given. On the 
latter point, Al-Biruni comments that what Varahamihira says of the 
astrological portents of the parvans does not ‘well suit his deep 

Rules for the computation of the parvan are quoted from the 

Khandakhadyaka. Pp. 115-117.] 


On The Domihants Of The Different Measures 
Of Time In Both Religious And Astronomical 
Relations, And On Connected Subjects 

Duration, or time in general, only applies to the Creator as being his 
age, and not determinable by a beginning and an end. In fact, it 

is his eternity. They frequently call it the 
soul, i.e. Purusha. But as regards 
common time, which is determinable by 
motion, the single parts of it apply to 

Which of the different 
measures of time have 
dominants and which not 

beings beside the Creator, and to natural phenomena beside the soul 
Thus Kalpa is always used in relation to Brahman, for it is his day 
and night, and his life is determined by it. 

Each manavantcua has a special dominant called Manu, who is 
described by special qualities, already mentioned in a former 
chapter. On the other hand, I have never heard anything of 
dominants of the caturyugas or yugas. 

[ Al-Biruni mentions the rules for the computation of the dominant 
of the year and the month, as given in the Khandakhadyaka, ‘the most 
universally used among them.’ Also gives Tables showing the 
dominants of the planets according to Vishnu-Dharma. Pp. 119-122.] 



On The Sixty Years—Samvatsara, Also 
Called “Shashtyabda” 

The word samavatsara, which means the years, is a technical term for 
cycles of years constructed on the basis of the revolutions of Jupiter 

and the sun, the heliacal rising of the 
™°and f former bein 8 reckoned as the beginning. 

It revolves in sixty years, and is there¬ 
fore called shashtyabda, i.e. sixty years. .. . 

The great yugas begin with the heliacal rising of Jupiter in the 
beginning of the station Dhanishtha and the beginning of the month 

Magha. The small yugas have within the 
great ones a certain order, being divided 
into groups which comprehend certain 
numbers of years, and each of which has a special dominant. This 
division is represented by the following Table. ... 

[Table given on p. 125.] 

Further, every single one of the sixty years has a name of its own, 

and the yugas , too, have names which 
The names of the single .1 c ,, . , . A n 

years of a mmvalsnra are the names of their dominants. All 

these names are exhibited in the follow¬ 

Smaller cycles as contained 
in the cycle of sixty years 

ing Table. 


India by Al-Birum 

This Table is to be used in the same way as the preceding one, as 
you find the name of each year of the whole cycle (of sixty years) 
under the corresponding number. It would be a lengthy affair if we 
were to explain the meanings of the single names and their 
prognostics. All this is found in the book Samhita. 

[Table given on pp. 127-28.] 

When I heard, among these pretended names of samvastras, names 
of nations, trees, and mountains, I conceived a suspicion of my 
reporters, more particularly as their chief business was indeed to 
practise hocus-pocus and deception (as jugglers ?);... I used great 
care in examining every single one of them, in repeating the same 
questions at different times, in a different order and context. But \o[i 
what different answers did I get! God is all-wise! 


On That Which Especially Concerns The 
Brahmans, And What They Are Obliged To 
Do During Their Whole Life 

The life of the Brahman, after seven years of it have passed, is 
divided into four parts. The first part begins with the eighth year, 

when the Brahmans come to him to 
First period in the instruct him, to teach him his duties, 

and to enjoin him to adhere to them and 
to embrace them as long as he lives. Then they bind a girdle round 
his waist and invest him with a pair of yajnopavitas, i.e. one strong 
cord consisting of nine single cords which are twisted together, and 
with a third yajnopavita, a single one made from cloth. This girdle 
runs from the left shoulder to the right hip. Further, he is presented 
with a stick which he has to wear, and with a seal-ring of a certain 
grass, called darbha, which he wears on the ring-finger of the right 
hand. This seal-ring is also called pavitra. The object of his wearing 
the ring on the ring-finger of his right hand is this, that it should be a 
good omen and a blessing for all those who receive gifts from that 
hand. The obligation for wearing the ring is not quite so stringent as 
that of wearing the yajnopavita , for from the latter he is not to separate 
himself under any circumstances whatever. If he takes it off while 


India by Al-Biruni 

eating or fulfilling some want of nature, he thereby commits a sin 
which cannot be wiped off save by some work of expiation, fasting, 
or almsgiving. 

This first period of the Brahman’s life extends till the twenty-fifth 
year of his age, or according to the Vishnu-Purana, till his forty-eighth 
year. His duty is to practise abstinence, to make the earth his bed, to 
begin with the learning of the Veda and of its explanation of the 
science of theology and law, all this being taught to him by a master 
whom he serves day and night. He washes himself thrice a day, and 
performs a sacrifice to the fire both at the beginning and end of the 
day. After the sacrifice he worships his master. He fasts a day and he 
breaks fast a day, but he is never allowed to eat meat. He dwells in 
the house of the master, which he only leaves in order to ask for a gift 
and to beg in not more than five houses once a day, either at noon or 
in the evening. Whatever alms he receives he places before his 
master to choose from it what he likes. Then the master allows him 
to take the remainder. Thus the pupil nourishes himself from the 
remains of the dishes of his master. Further, he fetches the wood for 
the fire, wood of two kinds of trees, palasa (Butea frondosa) and darbha, 
in order to perform the sacrifice; for the Hindus highly venerate the 
fire, and offer flowers to it. It is the same case with all other nations. 
They always thought that the sacrifice was accepted by the deity if 
the fire came down upon it, and no other worship has been able to 
draw them away from it, neither the worship of idols nor that of stars, 
cows, asses, or images. Therefore Bashshar Ibn Burd says: “Since 
there is fire, it is worshipped.” 

The second period of their life extends from the twenty-fifth year 

till the fiftieth, or, according to the Vishnu-Purana, till the seventieth. 

0 , . J . t The master allows him to marry. He 

Second period in the . x ... , , . . . 

Brahman’s life marries, establishes a household, and 

intends to have descendants, but he 
cohabits with his wife only once in a month after she has become 
clean of the 'menstruation. He is not allowed to marry a woman 
above twelve years of age. He gains his sustenance either by the fee 
he obtains for teaching Brahmans and Kshatriyas, not as a payment, 
but as a present, or by presents which he receives from someone 
because he performs for him the sacrifices to the fire, or by asking a 
gift from the kings and nobles, there being no importunate pressing 
on his part, and no unwillingness on the part of the giver. There is 
always a Brahman in the houses of those people, who there 

The Brahmans, What They are Obliged to Do 225 

administers the affairs of religion and the works of piety. He is called 
purohita. Lastly, the Brahman lives from what he gathers on the earth 
or from the trees. He may try his fortune in the trade of clothes and 
betel-nuts, but it is preferable that he should not trade himself, and 
that a Vaisya should do the business for him, because originally 
trade is forbidden on account of the deceiving and lying which are 
mixed up with it. Trading is permitted to him only in case of dire 
necessity, when he has no other means of sustenance. The Brahmans 
are not, like the other castes, bound to pay taxe§‘ and to perform 
services to the kings. Further, he is not allowed continually to busy 
himself with horses and cows, with the care for the cattle, nor with 
gaining by usury. The blue colour is impure for him, so that if it 
touches his body, he is obliged to wash himself. Lastly, he must 
always beat the drum before the fire, and recite for it the prescribed 
holy texts. 

The third period of the life of the Brahman extends from the 
fiftieth year to the seventy-fifth, or, according to the Vishnu-Parana, 

till the ninetieth. He practises abstinence, 
The third period leaves his household, and hands it as 

well as his wife over to his children, 
if the latter does not prefer to accompany him into the life in the 
wilderness. He dwells outside civilisation, and leads the same life 
again which he led in the first period. He does not take shelter under 
a roof, nor wear any other dress but some bark of a tree, simply 
sufficient to cover his loins. He sleeps on the earth without any bed, 
and only nourishes himself by fruit, vegetables, and roots. He lets 
the hair grow long, and does not anoint himself with oil. 

The fourth period extends till the end of life. He wears a red 
garment and holds a stick in his hand. He is always given to medi¬ 
tation; he strips the mind of friendship 
The fourth period and enmity, and roots out desire, and 

lust, and wrath. He does not converse 
with anybody at all. When walking to a place of a particular merit, in 
order to gain a heavenly reward, he does not stop on the road in a 
village longer than a day, nor in a city longer than five days. If any 
one gives him something, he does not leave a remainder of it for the 
following day. He has no other business but that of caring for the 
path which leads to salvation, and for reaching moksha, whence there 
is no return to this world. 

The universal duties of the Brahman throughout his whole life are 


India by Al-Biruni 

The duties of Brahmans 
in general 

works of piety, giving alms and receiving them. For that which the 

Brahmans give reverts to the pitaras (is 
in reality a benefit to the Fathers). He 
must continually read, perform the 
sacrifices, take care of the fire which he lights, offer before it, 
worship it, and preserve it from being extinguished, that he may be 
burned by it after his death. It is called homa. 

Every day he must wash himself thrice: at the samdhi of rising, i.e. 
morning dawn, at the samdhi of setting, i.e. evening twilight, and 

between them in the middle of the day: The first washing is on 
account of sleep, because the openings of the body have become lax 
during it. Washing is a cleansing from accidental impurity and a 
preparation for prayer. 

Their prayer consists of praise, glorification, and prostration 
according to their peculiar manner, viz. prostrating themselves on 
the two thumbs, whilst the two palms of the hands are joined, and 
they turn their faces towards the sun. For the sun is their kibla, 
wherever he may be, except when in the south. For they do not 
perform any work of piety with the face turned southward; only when 
occupied with something evil and unlucky they turn themselves 
towards the south. 

The time when the sun declines from the meridian (the afternoon) 
is well suited for acquiring in it a heavenly reward. Therefore at this 
time the Brahman must clean. 

The evening is the time of supper and of prayer. The Brahman 
may take his supper and pray without having previously washed 
himself. Therefore, evidently, the rule as to the third washing is not 
as stringent as that relating to the first and second washings. 

A nightly washing is obligatory for the Brahman only at the times 
of eclipses, that he should be prepared to perform the rules and 
sacrifices prescribed for that occasion. 

The Brahman, as long as he lives, eats only twice a day, at noon 
and at nightfall; and when he wants to take his meal, he begins by 
putting aside as much as is sufficient for one or two men as alms, 
especially for strange Brahmans who happen to come at evening¬ 
time asking for something. To neglect their maintenance would be a 
great sin. Further, he puts something aside for the cattle, the birds, 
and the fire. Over the remainder he says prayers and eats it. The 
remainder of his dish he places outside his house, and does not any 
more come near it, as it is no longer allowable for him, being 


The Brahmans, What They are Obliged to Do 

destined for the chance passer-by who wants it, be he a man, bird, 
dog, or something else. 

The Brahman must have a water-vessel for himself. If another one 
uses it, it is broken. The same remark applies to his eating- 
instruments. I have seen Brahmans who allowed their relatives to eat 
with them from the same plate, but most of them disapprove of this. 

He is obliged to dwell between the river Sindh in the north and the 
river Carmanvati in the south. He is not allowed to cross either of 
these frontiers so as to enter the country of the Turks or of the 
Kamata. Further, he must live between the ocean in the east and 
west. People say that he is not allowed to stay in a country in which 
the grass which he wears on the ring-finger does not grow, nor the 
black-haired gazelles graze. This is a description for the whole 
country within the just-mentioned boundaries. If he passes beyond 

them he commits a sin. ... 

In a country where not the whole spot in the house which is 
prepared for people to eat upon it is plastered with clay, where they, 
on the contrary, prepare a separate tablecloth for each person eating 
by pouring water over a spot and plastering it with the dung of cows, 
the shape of the Brahman’s tablecloth must be square. Those who 
have the custom of preparing such tablecloths give the following as 
the cause of this custom:—The spot of eating is soiled by the eating. 
If the eating is finished, the spot is washed and plastered to become 
clean again. If, now, the soiled spot is not distinguished by a separate 
mark, you would suppose also the other spots to be soiled, since they 
are similar to and cannot be distinguished from each other. 

Five vegetables are forbidden to them by the religious code: 
Onions, garlic, a kind of gourd, the root of a plant like the carrots 
called kmcn (?), and another vegetable which grows round their tanks 
called nah 


On The Rites And Customs Which The 
Other Castes, Besides The Brahmans, Practise 
During Their Lifetime 

The Kshatriya reads the Veda and learns it, but does not teach it. He 
offers to the fire and acts according to the rules of the Puranas. 

In places where, as we have mentioned 
Duties of the single castes ... a tablecloth is prepared for eating, 

he makes it angular. He rules the people 
and defends them, for he is created for this task. He girds himself 
with a single cord of the threefold yajnopavita, and a single other cord 
of cotton. This takes place after he has finished the twelfth year of 
his life. 

It is the duty of the Vaisya to practise agriculture and to cultivate 
the land, to tend the cattle and to remove the needs of the Brahmans. 
He is only allowed to gird himself with a single yajnopavita, which is 
made of two cords. 

The Sudra is like a servant to the Brahman, taking care of his 
affairs and serving him. If, though being poor in the extreme, he still 
desires not to be without a yajnopavita , he girds himself only with the 
linen one. Every action which is considered as the privilege of a 
Brahman, such as saying prayers, the recitation of the Veda, and 


On the Rites and Customs of the Other Castes 

offering sacrifices to the fire, is forbidden to him, to such a degree 
that when, e.g.a Sudra or a Vaisya is proved to have recited the 
Veda, he is accused by the Brahmans before the ruler, and the latter 
will order his tongue to be cut off However, the meditation on God, 
works of piety, and alms-giving are not forbidden to him. 

Every man who takes to some occupation which is not allowed to 
his caste, as, e.g. a Brahman to trade, a Sudra to agriculture, 
commits a sin or crime, which they consider only a little less than 

crime of theft. . „. . ... 

[Al-Biruni then recounts one of the traditions of the Hindus, that 

in the days of King Rama human life was very long and well-defined, 
so that child never died before its father. Once, however, a son of a 
Brahman predeceased his father. The father brought him to the 
King’s palace, bewailing that there is something rotten in e 
country. Then Rama began to inquire into the cause of this, and 
finally they pointed out to him a Candala who took the greatest pain 
in performing worship and self-torment. The Kin* rode to him and 
found him on the banks of the Ganges, hanging on something with 
his head downwards. The King bent his bow, shot at him, and pierced 
his bowels. Then he spoke: “I kill thee on account of a good action 
which thou are not allowed to do.” When the King returned to the 

palace, he found the Brahman’s son alive.] 

All other men except the Candala, as far as they are not Hindus, 
are called mleccha, i.e. unclean, all those who kill men and slaughter 

animals and eat the flesh of cows. 

All these things originate in the difference of the classes or castes, 
one set of people treating the others as fools. This apart all men 

are equal to each other, as Vasudeva 
Philosophic opinion about sa y S regarding him who seeks salvation: 

all things being equal « In the judgment of the intelligent man, 

the Brahman and the Candala are equal, the friend and the foe, the 
faithful and the deceitful, nay, even the serpent and the weasel. If to 
the eyes of intelligence all things are equal, to ignorance they appear 
as separated and different. .. 


On The Sacrifices 

Most of the Veda treats of the sacrifices to the fire, and describes 
each one of them. They are different in e^ftent, so that certain of them 

can only be performed by the greatest of 
Asvamedha their kings. So, e.g. the asvamedha. 

A mare 37 is let freely to wander about 
in the country grazing, without anybody’s hindering her. Soldiers 
follow her, drive her, and cry out before her: “She is the king of the 
world. He who does not agree, let him come forward.” The 
Brahmans walk behind her and perform sacrifices to the fire where 
she castes dung. When she thus has wandered about through all 
parts of the world, she becomes food for the Brahmans and for him 
whose property she is. 

Further, the sacrifices differ in duration, so that only he could 
perform certain of them who lives a very long life; and such long lives 
do no longer occur in this our age. Therefore most of them have been 
abolished, and only few of them remain and are practised nowadays. 

According to the Hindus, the fire eats everything. Therefore it 
becomes defiled, if anything unclean is mixed up with it, as e.g. 

On the Sacrifices 


water. Accordingly they are very punc- 
On fire-offerings in general tilious regarding fire and water if they 

are in the hands of non-Hindus, because 
they are defiled by being touched by them. 

That which the fire eats for its share, reverts to the Devas, because 
the fire comes out of their mouths. What the Brahmans present to the 
fire to eat is oil and different cereals—wheat, barley, and rice— 
which they throw into the fire. Further, they recite the prescribed 
texts of the Veda in case they offer on their own behalf. However, if 
they offer in the name of somebody else, they do not recite anything. 

[The story of the fire becoming leprous is narrated from the 
Vishnu-Dharma. Pp. 140-141.] 


On Pilgrimage And The Visiting Of 
Sacred Places 

Pilgrimages are not obligatory to the Hindus, but facultative and meri¬ 
torious. A man sets off to wander to some holy region, to some much 
venerated idol or to some of the holy rivers. He worships in them, 
worships the idol, makes presents to it, recites many hymns and 
prayers, fasts, and gives alms to the Brahmans, the priests, and 
others. He shaves the hair of his head and beard, and returns home. 

The holy, much venerated ponds are in the cold mountains round 
Meru. . .. 

We have already quoted Hindu traditions to the effect that in the 
Dvipas there are rivers as holy as the Ganges. In every place to 

which some particular holiness is 
On the construction of »i_ j ri* j 

holy ponds ascribed, the Hindus construct ponds 

intended for the ablutions. In this they 
have attained to a very high degree of art, so that our people (the 
Muslims), when they see them, wonder at them, and are unable to 
describe them, much less to construct anything like them. They build 
them of great stones of an enormous bulk, joined to each other by 
sharp and strong cramp-irons, in the form of steps (or terraces) like 
so many ledges: and these terraces run all around the pond, reaching 

On Pilgrimage and Visiting of Sacred Places 


to a height of more than a man’s stature. On the surface of the stones 
between two terraces they construct staircases rising like pinnacles. 
Thus the first steps or terraces are like roads (leading round the 
pond), and the pinnacles are steps (leading up and down). If ever so 
many people descend to the pond whilst others ascend, they do not 
meet each other, and the road is never blocked up, because there are 
so many terraces, and the ascending person can always turn aside to 
another terrace than that on which the descending people go. By this 
arrangement all troublesome thronging is avoided. 

In Multan there is a pond in which the Hindus worship by bathing 
themselves, if they are not prevented. [Varahamihira’s Samhita is 

quoted about a pond in Taneswar, 
On single holy £onds which is regarded as very holy.) 

The ponds become particularly famous for holiness either because 
some important event has happened at them, or because there is 
some passage in the holy text or tradition which refers to them. We 
have already quoted words spoken by Saunaka. Venus had related 
them to him on the authority of Brahman, to whom they had 
originally been addressed. In this text King Bali also is mentioned, 
and what he would do till the time when Narayana would plunge him 
down to the lowest earth. In the same text occurs the following 

passage:—“I do that to him only for 
this purpose that the equality between 
men, which he desires to realise, shall 
be done away with, that men shall be 
different in their conditions of life, and 
that on this difference the order of the world is to be based; further, 
that people shall turn away from his worship and worship me and 
believe in me. The mutual assistance of civilised people presupposes 
a certain difference among them, in consequence of which the one 
requires the other. According to the same principle, God has created 
the world as containing many differences in itself. So the single 
countries differ from each other, one being cold, the other warm; one 
having good soil, water, and air, the other having bitter salt soil, dirty 
and bad smelling water, and unhealthy air. There are stilt more 
differences of this kind; in some cases advantages of all kinds being 
numerous, in others few. In some parts there are periodically return¬ 
ing physical disasters; in others they are entirely unknown. All these 
things induce civilised people carefully to select the places where 
they want to build towns. 

On the inequality of created 
beings and the origin of 
patriotism. A tradition 
from Saunaka 


India by Al-Biruni 

That which makes people do these things is usage and custom. 
However, religious commands are much more powerful, and 
influence much more the nature of man than usages and customs. 
The bases of the latter are investigated, explored, and accordingly 
either kept or abandoned, whilst the bases of the religious commands 
are left as they are, not inquired into, adhered to by the majority 
simply on trust. They do not argue over them, as the inhabitants of 
some sterile region do not argue over it, since they are bom in it and 
do not know anything else, for they love the country as their father- 
land, and find it difficult to leave it. If, now, besides physical 
differences, the countries differ from each other also in law and 
religion, there is so much attachment to it in the hearts of those who 
live in them that it can never be rooted out.” 

The Hindus have some places which are venerated for reasons 
connected with their law and religion, e.g. Benares (Baranasi). For 

their anchorites wander to it and stay 
On Benares as an asylum there for ever, as the dwellers of the 

Ka’ba stay for ever in Mekka. They 
want to live there to the end of their lives, that their reward after 
death should be the better for it. They say that a murderer is held 
responsible for his crime and punished with a punishment due to his 
guilt, except in case he enters the city of Benares, where he obtains 
pardon. ... 

Another place of this kind is Taneshar, also called Kurukshetra, i.e. 
the land of Kuru, who was a peasant, a pious, holy man, who worked 
miracles by divine power. Therefore, the country was called after 
him, and venerated for his sake. Besides, Taneshar is the theatre of 
the exploits of Vasudeva in the wars of Bharata and of the destruc¬ 
tion of the evil-doers. It is for this reason that people visit the place. 

Mahura, too, is a holy place, crowded with Brahmans. It is 
venerated because Vasudeva was there bom and brought up, in a 
place in the neighbourhood called Nandagola. 

Nowadays the Hindus also visit Kashmir. Lastly, they used to 
visit Multan before its idol-temple was destroyed. 


On Alms, And How A Man Must Spend 
What He Earns 

It is obligatory with them every day to give alms as much as possible. 
They do not let money become a year or even a month old, for this 

would be a draft on an unknown future, of which a man does not 


know whether he reaches it or not. 

With regard to that which he earns by the crops or from the cattle, 
he is bound first to pay the ruler of the country the tax which attaches 
to the soil or the pasture-ground. Further, he pays him one-sixth of 
the income in recognition of the protection which he affords to the 
subjects, their property, and their families. The same obligation rests 
also on the common people, but they will always lie and cheat in the 
declarations about their property. Further, trading businesses,too, 
pay a tribute for the same reason. Only the Brahmans are exempt 
from all these taxes. 

As to the way in which the remainder of the income, after the 
taxes have been deducted, is to be employed, there are different 
opinions. Some destine one-ninth of it for alms. For they divide it 
into three parts. One of them is kept in reserve to guarantee the heart 
against anxiety. The second is spent on trade to bring profit, and 
one-third of the third portion (i.e. one-ninth of the whole) is spent on 

236 India by Al-Biruni 

alms, whilst the two other thirds are spent according to the same 

Others divide this income into four portions. One-fourth is 
destined for common expenses, the second for liberal works of a 
noble mind, the third for alms, and the fourth for being kept in 
reserve, i.e. not more of it than the common expenses for three years. 
If the quarter which is to be reserved exceeds this amount, only this 
amount is reserved, whilst the remainder is spent as alms. 

Usury or taking percentages is forbidden. The sin which a man 
commits thereby corresponds to the amount by which the 
percentages have increased the capital stock. Only to the Sudra is it 
allowed to take percentages, as long as his profit is not more than 
one-fiftieth of the capital (i.e. he is not to take more than two per 


On What Is Allowed And Forbidden In 
Eating And Drinking 

Originally killing in general was forbidden to them, as it is to the 
Christians and Manichaeans. People, however, have the desire for 
meat, and will always fling aside every order to the contrary. There¬ 
fore the here-mentioned law applies in particular only to the 
Brahmans, because they are the guardians of the religion and 
because it forbids them to give way to their lusts. 

... As matters stand thus, it is allowed to kill animals by means of 
strangulation, but only certain animals, others being excluded. The 
... , . , , ,, J meat of such animals, the killing of 
unlawful to be eaten which is allowed, is forbidden in case 

they die a sudden death. Animals, the 
killing of which is allowed are sheep, goats, gazelles, hares, rhino¬ 
ceroses ( gandha ), the buffaloes, fish, water and land birds, as 
sparrows, ringdoves, francolins, doves, peacocks, and other animals 
which are not loathsome to man nor noxious. 

That which is forbidden are cows, horses, mules, asses, camels, 
elephants, tame poultry, crows, parrots, nightingales, all kinds of 
eggs and wine. The latter is allowed to the Sudra. He may drink it, 
but dare not sell it, as he is not allowed to sell meat. 


India by Al-Biruni 

Why the meat of cows 
was forbidden 

Some Hindus say that in the time before Bharata it was allowed to 
eat the meat of cows, and that there then existed sacrifices part 

of which was the killing of cows. After 
that time, however, it had been forbid¬ 
den on account of the weakness of men, 
who were too weak to fulfil their duties, as also the Veda, which 
originally was only one, was afterwards divided into four parts, 
simply for the purpose of facilitating the study of it to men. This 
theory, however, is very little substantiated, as the prohibition of the 
meat of cows is not an alleviating and less strict measure, but, on the 
contrary, one which is more severe and more restrictive than the 
former law. 

Other Hindus told me that the Brahmans used to suffer from the 
eating of cows’ meat. For their country is hot, the inner parts of the 
bodies are cold, the natural warmth becomes feeble in them, and the 
power of digestion is so weak that they must strengthen it by eating 
the leaves of betel after dinner, and by chewing the betel-nut. The hot 
betel inflames the heat of the body, the chalk on the betel-leaves 
dries up everything wet, and the betel-nut acts as an astringent on the 
teeth, the gums, and the stomach. As this is the case, they forbade 
eating cows’ meat, because it is essentially thick and cold. 

I, for my part, am uncertain, and hesitate in the question of the 
origin of this custom between two different views. 

(Lacuna in the manuscript) 

As for the economical reason, we must keep in mind that the cow 
is the animal which serves man in travelling by carrying his loads, in 
agriculture in the works of ploughing and sowing, in the household 
by the milk and the product made thereof. Further, man makes use 
of its dung, and in winter-time even of its breath. Therefore it was 
forbidden to eat cows’ meat; as also Alhajjaj forbade it, when people 
complained to him that ‘Babylonia became more and more desert. . . .' 


On Matrimony, The Menstrual Courses, 
Embryos, And Childbed 

No nation can exist without a regular married life, for it prevents the 
uproar of passions abhorred by the cultivated mind, and it removes 

all those causes which excite the animal 
Necessity of matrimony to a fury always leading to harm. 

Considering the life of the animals by 
pairs, how the one member of the pair helps the other, and how the 
lust of other animals of the same species is kept aloof from them, you 
cannot help declaring matrimony to be a necessary institution; whilst 
disorderly cohabitation or harlotry on the part of man is a shameful 
proceeding, that does not even attain to the standing of the develop¬ 
ment of animals, which in every other respect stand far below him. 

Every nation has particular customs of marriage, and especially 
those who claim to have a religion and law of divine origin. The 

Hindus marry at a very young age; 
Law of marriage therefore the parents arrange the 

marriage for their sons. On that occasion 
the Brahmans perform the rites of the sacrifices, and they as well as 
others receive alms. The implements of the wedding rejoicings are 
brought forward. No gift is settled between them. The man gives 


India by Al-Biruni 

only a present to the wife, as he thinks fit, and a marriage gift in 
advance, which he has no right to claim back, but the wife may give 
it back to him of her own will. Husband and wife can only be 
separated by death, as they have no divorce. 

A man may marry one to four wives. He is not allowed to take 
more than four; but if one of his wives die, he may take another one 
to complete the legitimate number. However, he must not go beyond 

If a wife loses her husband by death, she cannot marry another 
man. She has only to choose between two things—either to remain 

a widow as long as she lives or to bum 
The widow herself; and the latter eventuality is 

considered the preferable, because as a 
widow she is ill-treated as long as she lives. As regards the wives of 
the kings, they are in the habit of burning them, whether they wish it 
or not, by which they desire to prevent any of them by chance 
committing something unworthy of the illustrious husband. They 
make an exception bnly for women of advanced years and for those 
who have children, for the son is the responsible protector of his 

According to their marriage law it is better to marry a stranger 
than a relative. The more distant the relationship of a woman with 

regard to her husband the better. It is 
absolutely forbidden to marry related 
women both of the direct descending line, 
viz. a grand-daughter or great-grand-daughter, and of the direct 
ascending line, viz. a mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother. It is 
also forbidden tQ marry collateral relations, viz. a sister, a niece, a 
maternal or paternal aunt and their daughters, except in case the 
couple of relations who want to marry each other be removed from 
each other by five consecutive generations. In that case the prohibi¬ 
tion is waived, but, notwithstanding, such a marriage is an object of 
dislike to them. 

Some Hindus think that the number of the wives depends upon the 
caste; that, accordingly, a Brahman may take four, a Kshatriya 

three, a Vaisya two wives, and a Sudra 
Number of wives one. Every man of a caste may marry a 

woman of his own caste or one of the 
castes or caste below his; but nobody is allowed to marry a woman 
of a caste superior to his own. 

Forbidden degrees of 

On Matrimony, Menstrual Courses and Childbed 241 

The child belongs to the caste of the mother, not to that of the 
father. Thus, e.g. if the wife oT a Brahman is a Brahman, her child 

also is a Brahman; if she is a Sudra, her 
Portus sequitur ventrem child is a Sudra. In our time, however, 

the Brahmans, although it is allowed to 
them, never marry any woman except one of their own caste. 

The longest duration of the menstrual courses which has been 
observed is sixteen days, but in reality they last only during the first 

Duration of the f° ur ^ a ^ S ’ t * ien husband is not 

menstrual courses allowed to cohabit with his wife, nor 

even to come near her in the house, 
because during this time she is impure. After the four days have 
elapsed and she has washed, she is pure again, and the husband may 
cohabit with her, even if the blood has not yet entirely disappeared; 
for this blood is not considered as that of the menstrual courses, but 
as the same substance-matter of which the embryos consist. 

It is the duty (of the Brahman), if he wants to cohabit with a wife 
to get a child, to perform a sacrifice to the fire called garbhadhana; 

but he does not perform it, because it 
On pregnancy and childbed requires the presence of the woman, 

and therefore he feels ashamed to do so. 
In consequence he postpones the sacrifice and unites it with the next 
following one, which is due in the fourth month of the pregnancy, 
called simamtonnayanam After the wife has given birth to the child, a 
third sacrifice is performed between the birth and the moment when 
the mother begins to nourish the child. It is called jatakarman 

The child receives a name after the days of the childbed have 
elapsed. The sacrifice for the occasion of the name-giving is called 

As long as the woman is in childbed, she does not touch any 
vessel, and nothing is eaten in her house, nor does the Brahman light 
there a fire. These days are eight for the Brahman, twelve for the 
Kshatriya, fifteen for the Vaisya, and thirty for the Sudra. For the 
low-caste people which are not reckoned among any caste, no term 
is fixed. 

The longest duration of the suckling of the child is three years, but 
there is no obligation in this matter. The sacrifice on the occasion of 
the first cutting of the child’s hair is offered in the third, the perfora¬ 
tion of ear takes place in the seventh and eighth years. 

People think with regard to harlotry that it is allowed with them. 


India by Al-Biruni 

Thus, when Kabul was conquered by the Muslim and the Ispahbad 

of Kabul adopted Islam, he stipulated 
On the causes of prostitution that he should not be bound to eat cows’ 

meat nor to commit sodomy (which 
proves that he abhorred the one as much as the other). In reality, the 
matter is not as people think, but it is rather this, that the Hindus are 
not very severe in punishing whoredom. The fault, however, in this 
lies with the kings, not with the nation. But for this, no Brahman or 
priest would suffer in their idol-temples the women who sing, dance, 
and play. The kings make them an attraction for their cities, a bait of 
pleasure for their subjects, for no other but financial reasons. By the 
revenues which they derive from the* business both as fines and 
taxes, they want to recover the expenses which their treasury has to 
spend on the army. 

In a similar way the Buyide prince Adud-aldaula acted, who 
besides also had a second aim in view, viz. that of protecting his 
subjects against the passions of his unmarried soldiers. 


On Lawsuits 

The judge demands from the suitor a document written against the 
accused person in a well-known writing which is thought suitable 

for writs of the kind, and in the docu- 
On procedure ment the well-established proof of the 

justice of his suit. In case there is no 
written document the contest is settled by means of witnesses 
without a written document. 

The witnesses must not be less than four, but there may be more. 
Only in case the justice of the deposition of a witness is perfectly 

established and certain before the judge, 
Number of witnesses he may admit it, and decide the 

question alone on the basis of the 
deposition of this sole witness. However, he does not admit prying 
about in secret, deriving arguments from mere signs or indications in 
public, concluding by analogy from one thing which seems establish¬ 
ed about another, and using all sorts of tricks to elicit the truth, as 
Tyas Ibn Muawiya used to do. 

If the suitor is not able to prove his claim, the defendant must 
swear, but he may also tender the oath to the suitor by saying, 
“Swear thou that thy claim is true and I will give thee what thou 

There are many kinds of the oath, in accordance with the value or 


India by Al-Biruni 

Different kinds of oaths 
and ordeals 

the object of the claim. If the object is of no great importance, and 

the suitor agrees that the accused 
person shall swear, the latter simply 
swears before five learned Brahmans in 
the following words: “If I lie, he shall have as recompense as much 
of my goods as is equal to the eightfold of the amount of his claim.” 

[Some other kinds of oaths and ordeals are described. These 
included the methods of (i) asking the accused person to take a 
poisonous drink, (ii) throwing him in a river, and (iii) putting a red- 
hot piece of iron in his hand. If he was not a culprit he would remain 
unharmed in all these cases. Pp. 159-160.] 


On Punishments And Expiations 

In this regard the manners and customs of the Hindus resemble those 
of the Christians, for they are, like those of the latter, based on the 
principles of virtue and abstinence from wickedness, such as never to 
kill under any circumstance whatsoever, to give to him who has 
stripped you of your coat also your shirt, to offer to him who has 
beaten your cheek the other cheek also, to bless your enemy and to 
pray for him. Upon my life, this is a noble philosophy; but the people 
of this world are not all philosophers. Most of them are ignorant and 
erring, who cannot be kept on the straight road save by the sword 
and the whip. 

India has developed in a similar way. For the Hindus relate that 
originally the affairs of government and war were in the hands of the 
_ „ Brahmans, but the country became dis- 

the rulers of the nation organised, since they ruled according to 

the philosophic principles of their 
religious codes, which proved impossible when opposed to the 
mischievous and perverse elements of the populace. They were 
even near losing also the administration of their religious affairs. 
Therefore, they humiliated themselves before the lord of their 
religion. Whereupon Brahman entrusted them exclusively with the 


India by Al-Biruni 

Law of murder 

functions which they now have, whilst he entrusted the Kshatriyas 
with the duties of ruling and fighting. Ever since the Brahmans live 
by asking and begging, and the penal code is exercised under the 
control of the kings, not under that of the scholars. 

The law about murder is this: If the murderer is a Brahman, and 
the murdered person a member of another caste, he is only bound 

to do expiation consisting of fasting, 
prayers, and alms-giving. 

If the murdered person is a Brahman, the Brahman murderer has to 
answer for it in a future life; for he is not allowed to do expiation, 
because expiation wipes off the sin from the sinner, whilst nothing can 
wipe off any of the mortal crimes from a Brahman, of which the 
greatest are: the murder of a Brahman, called vajrabrahmahatya; further, 
the killing of a cow, the drinking of wine, whoredom, especially with the 
wife of one’s own father and teacher. However, the kings do not for 
any of these crimes kill a Brahman or Kshatriya, but they confiscate 
his property and banish him from their country. 

If a man of a caste under those of the Brahman and Kshatriya kills 
a man of the same caste, he has to do expiation, but besides the kings 
inflict upon him a punishment in order to establish an example. 

The law of theft directs that the punishment of the thief should be 
in accordance with the value of the stolen object. Accordingly, 

sometimes a punishment of extreme or 
Law of theft of middling severity is necessary, some¬ 

times a course of correction and 
imposing a payment, sometimes only exposing to public shame and 
ridicule. If the object is very great, the kings blind a Brahman and 
mutilate him cutting off his left hand and right foot, or the right hand 
and left foot, whilst they mutilate a Kshatriya without blinding him, 
and kill thieves of the other castes. 

An adulteress is driven out of the house of the husband and 
Punishment of an adulteress banished. 

I have repeatedly been told that when Hindu slaves (in Muslim 
countries) escape and return to their country and religion, the Hindus 

order that they should fast by way of 

”owSrafter 0 r f eruming expiation, then they bury them in the 

to their country dung, stale, and milk of cows for a 

certain number of days, till they get 
into a state of fermentation. Then they drag them out of the dirt and 
give them similar dirt to eat, and more of the like. 

On Punishments and Expiations 


I have asked the Brahmans if this is true, but they deny it, and 
maintain that there is no expiation possible for such an individual, 
and that he is never allowed to return into those conditions of life in 
which he was before he was carried off as a prisoner. And how 
should that be possible? If a Brahman eats in the house of a Sudra for 
sundry days, he is expelled from his caste and can never regain it. 



On Inheritance, And What Claim The 
Deceased Person Has On It 

The chief rule of their law of inheritance is this, that women do not 
inherit, except the daughter. She gets the fourth part of the share of 

a son, according to a passage in the 
Law of inheritance book Manu. If she is not married, the 

money is spent on her till the time of her 
marriage, and her dowry is bought by means of her share. 
Afterwards she has no more income from the house of her father. 

If a widow does not burn herself, but prefers to remain alive, the 
heir of her deceased husband has to provide her with nourishment 
and clothing as long as she lives. 

The debts of the deceased must be paid by his heir, either out of 
his share or of the stock of his own property, no regard being had 
whether the deceased has left any property or not. Likewise he must 
bear the just-mentioned expenses for the widow in any case 

As regards the rule about the male heirs, evidently the 
descendants, i.e. the son and grandson, have a nearer claim to the 
inheritance than the ascendants, i.e. the father and grandfather. 
Further, as regards the single relatives among the descendants as 

On Inheritance 


well as the ascendants, the nearer a man is related, the more claim he 
has on inheriting. Thus a son has a nearer claim than a grandson, a 
father than a grandfather. 

The collateral relations, as, e.g. the brothers, have less claim, and 
inherit only in case there is nobody who has a better claim. Hence it 
is evident that the sen of a daughter has more claim than the son of a 
sister, and that the son of a brother has more claim than either of 


If there are several claimants of the same degree of relationship, 
as, e.g. sons or brothers, they all get equal shares. A hermaphrodite 
is reckoned as a male being . 38 

If the deceased leaves no heir, the inheritance falls to the treasury 
of the king, except in the case that the deceased person was a 
Brahman. In that case the king has no right to meddle with the 
inheritance, but it is exclusively spent on alms-giving. 

The duty of the heir towards the deceased in the first year consists 

in his giving sixteen banquets, where every guest in addition to his 

food receives alms also, viz. on the 

Duties of the heir fifteenth and sixteenth days after death; 

towards the deceased . , u , 

further, once a month during the whole 

year. The banquet in the sixth month must be more rich and more 

liberal than the others. Further, on the last but one day of the year, 

which banquet is devoted to the deceased and his ancestors, and 

, finally, on the last day of the year. With the end of the year the duties 

towards the deceased have been fulfilled. 

If the heir is a son, he must during the whole year wear mourning 
dress; he must mourn and have no intercourse with women, if he is a 
legitimate child and of a good stock. Besides, you must know that ^ 
nourishment is forbidden to the heirs for one single day in the first 1 

part of the mourning-year. 

Besides the almsgiving at the just-mentioned sixteen banquets, the 
heirs must make, above the door of the house, something like a shelf 
projecting from the wall in the open air, on which they have every 
day to place a dish of something cooked and vessel of water, till the 
end of ten days after the death. For possibly the spirit of the 
deceased has not yet found its rest, but moves still to and fro around 
the house, hungry and thirsty. 

A similar view is indicated by Plato in Phaedo, where he speaks of 

the soul circling round the graves, 
Parallel from Plato because possibly it still retains some 


India by Al-Biruni 

vestiges of the love for the body. ... 

On the tenth of the last-mentioned days, the heir spends, in the 
name of the deceased, much food and cold water. After the eleventh 
day, the heir sends every day sufficient food for a single person and a 
dirham to the house of the Brahman, and continues doing this during 
all the days of the mourning-year without any interruption until its 


About What Is Due To The Bodies Of The 
Dead And Of The Living (i.e. About 
Burying And Suicide) 

In the most ancient times the bodies of the dead were exposed to the 
air by being thrown on the fields without any covering; also sick 

people were exposed on the fields and 

Primitive burial customs in the mountains, and were left there. If 

they died there, they had the fate just 

mentioned; but if they recovered, they returned to their dwellings. 

Thereupon there appeared a legislator who ordered people to 
expose their dead to the wind. In consequence they constructed 
roofed buildings with walls of rails, through which the wind*blew, 
passing over the dead, as something similar is the case in the grave- 
towers of the Zoroastrians. 

After they had practised this custom for a long time, Narayana 
prescribed to them to hand the dead over to the fire, and ever since 
they are in the habit of burning them, so that nothing remains ot 
them, and every defilement, dirt, and smell is annihilated at once, so 

as scarcely to leave any trace behind. ... 

(Greek parallels are referred to. The ancient Greeks had both 

customs, that of burning and that of burying .] 


India by Al-Biruni 

Fire and the sunbeam as the 
nearest roads to God 

• • In a similar way the Hindus express themselves. There is a 
point in man by which he is what he is. This point becomes free when 
the mixed elements of the body are dissolved and scattered by 

Regarding this return (of the immortal soul to God), the Hindus 
think that partly it is effected by the rays of the sun, the soul 

/ attaching itself to them and ascending 
with them, partly by the flame of the 
fire, which raises it (to God). Some 
Hindus used to pray that God would make his road to himself as a 
straight line, because this is the nearest road, and that there is no 
other road upwards save the fire or the ray. 

Similar to this is the practice of the Ghuzz Turks with reference to 
a drowned person; for they place the body on a bier in the river, and 
make a cord hang down from his foot, throwing the end of the cord 
into the water. By means of this cord the spirit of the deceased is to 
raise himself for resurrection.*... 

People relate that Buddha had ordered the bodies of the dead to be 
thrown into flowing water. Therefore his followers, the Shamanians, 
throw their dead into the rivers. 

According to the Hindus, the body of the dead has the claim upon 
his heirs that they are to wash, embalm, wrap it in a shroud, and then 

to bum it with as much sandal and other 
Hindu manner of burial woo d as they can get. Part of his burned 

bones are brought to the Ganges and 
thrown into it, that the Ganges should flow over them, as it has 
flowed over the burned bones of the children of Sagara, thereby 
forcing them from hell and bringing them into paradise. The 
remainder of the ashes is thrown into some brook of running water. 
On the spot where the body has been burned they raise a monument 
similar to a milestone, plastered with gypsum. 

The bodies of children under three years are not burned. 

Those who fulfil these duties towards the dead afterwards wash 
themselves as well as their dresses during two days, because they 
have become unclean by touching the dead. 

Those who cannot afford to bum their dead will either throw them 
somewhere on the open field or into running water. 

Now as regards the right of the body of the living, the Hindus 
would not think of burning it save in the case of a widow who 
chooses to follow her husband, or in the case of those who are tired 

About Burying and Suicide 


of their life, who are distressed over some incurable disease of their . 

body, some irremovable bodily defect, 
Modes Of suicide or old age and infirmity. This, however, 

no man of distinction does, but only 
Vaisyas and Sudras, especially at those times which are prized as 
the most suitable for a man to acquire in them, for a future repetition 
of life, a better form and condition than that in which he happens to 
have been born and to live. Burning oneself is forbidden to Brahmans 
and Kshatriyas by a special law. Therefore these, if they want to kill 
themselves, do so at the time of an eclipse in some other manner, or 
they hire somebody to drown them in the Ganges, keeping them 
under water till they are dead. 

At the junction of the two rivers, Yamuna and Ganges, there is a 
great tree called prayaga 39 , a tree of the species called vata. It is 

peculiar to this kind of tree that its 
The tree of Pmytiga branches send forth two species of 

twigs, some directed upward, as is the 
case with all other trees, and others directed downward like roots, 
but without leaves. If such a twig enters into the soil, it is like a 
supporting column to the branch whence it has grown. Nature has 
arranged this on purpose, since the branches of this tree are ot an 
enormous extent (and require to be supported) Here the Brahmans 
and Kshatriyas are in the habit of committing suicide by climbing up 
the tree and throwing themselves into the Ganges. ..-. 


On Fasting, And The Various Kinds Of It 

Fasting is with the Hindus voluntary and supererogatory. Fasting is 
abstaining from food for a certain length of time, which may be 
different in duration and in the manner in which it is carried out. 

The ordinary middle process, by which all the conditions of 
fasting are realised, is this: A man determines the day on which he 

will fast, and keeps in mind the name of 
Various methods of fasting that being whose benevolence he wishes 

to gain thereby and for whose sake he 
will fast, be it a god, or an angel, or some other being. Then he 
proceeds, prepares (and takes) his food on the day before the fast- 
day at noon, cleans his teeth by rubbing, and fixes his thoughts on 
the fasting of the following day. From that moment he abstains from 
food. On the morning of the fast-day he again rubs his teeth, washes 
himself, and performs the duties of the day. He takes water in his 
hand, and sprinkles it into all four directions, he pronounces with his 
tongue the name of the deity for whom he fasts, and remains in this 
condition till the day after the fast-day. After the sun has risen, he is 
at liberty to break the fast at that moment if he likes, or, if he prefers, 
he may postpone it till noon. 

This kind is called upavasa, i.e. the fasting: for the not-eating from 

On Fasting, and the Various Kinds of it 


one noon to the following is called ekanakta, not fasting. 

Another kind, called kricchra, is this: A man takes his food on some 
day at noon, and on the following day in the evening. On the third 
day he eats nothing except what by chance is given him without his 
asking for it. On the fourth day he fasts. 

Another kind, called pamka, is this: A man takes his food at noon 
on three consecutive days. Then he transfers his eating-hour to the 
evening during three further consecutive days. Then he fasts un¬ 
interruptedly during three consecutive days without breaking fast. 

Another kind, called candrayana, is this: A man fasts on the day of 
full moon; on the following day he takes only a mouthful, on the third 
day he takes double this amount, on the fourth day the three-fold of 
it, etc., etc., going on thus till the day of new moon. On that day he 
fasts; on the following days he again diminishes his food by one 
mouthful a day, till he again fasts on the day of full moon. 

Another kind, called masavasa (masopavasa ), is this: A man un¬ 
interruptedly fasts all the days of a month without ever breaking 
fast. ... 

If a man fasts all the days of Caitra, he obtains wealth and 
joy over the nobility of his children. If he fasts in Vaisakha, he will 
lord over his tribe. ... If he fasts in Jyaishtha, he will be a favourite 
of the women. If he fasts in Ashadha, he will obtain wealth. If he 
fasts in Sravana, he obtains wisdom. If he fasts in Bhadrapada, he 
obtains wealth and valour, riches and cattle. If he fasts in Asvayuja, 
t,,. „ avs ce victorious over his enemies. If he fasts in Kartikka, 

he will ... obtain his wishes. If he fasts in Margasirsha, he will be 
born in the most beautiful and fertile country. If he fasts in Pausa, he 
obtains a high reputation. If he fasts in Magha, he obtains innu¬ 
merable wealth. If he fasts in Phalguna, he will be beloved. 

He who fasts, however, during all the months of the year, only 
twelve times breaking the fast, will reside in paradise 10,000 years, 
and will thence return to life as the member of a noble, high and 
respected family. ... 


On The Determination Of The Fast-Days 

The reader must know in general that the eighth and eleventh days of 

the white half of very month are fast- 
days, except in the case of the leap 
month, for it is disregarded, being 
considered unlucky. 

The eighth and eleventh 
days of each half of a 
month are fast-days 

The eleventh is specially holy to Vasudeva, because on having 
taken possession of Mahura, the inhabitants of which formerly used 
to worship Indra one day in each month, he induced them to transfer 
this worship to the eleventh, that it should be performed in his name. 
... Therefore they fast on this day in the state of the most 
punctilious cleanness, and they stay awake all the night, considering 
this as an obligatory performance, though in reality it is not 
obligatory. ... 

[Some of the single fast-days throughout the year are mentioned. 
Among these are:] 

The sixth day of Caitra is a fast-day holy to the sun. 

The day of full moon in the month Sravana is a fast-day noiy tc 
Somanath. ... 

The eighth of the same month is a fast-day holy to Bhagavati. 
Fasting is broken when the moon rises. 

Determination of the Fast-Days 


The fifth day of Bhadrapada is a fast-day holy to the sun, called 

shat. .. . 

When in the month Karttika the moon stands in Revati, the last of 
her stations, it is a fast-day in commemoration of the waking up of 
Vasudeva. It is called deotthini, i.e. the rising of the Deva. Others 
add, besides, the condition that it must be the eleventh of the white 
half. ... 

On the sixth day of Pausha is a fasting in honour of the sun. 

On the third day of Magha there is fasting for the women, not for 
the men. It is called Gaur-t-r (gauri-tritiyal), and lasts the whole day 
and night. On the following morning they make presents to the 
nearest relatives of their husbands. 


On The Festivals And Festive Days 

Yatra means travelling under auspicious circumstances. Therefore a 
feast is called yatra. Most of the Hindu festivals 40 are celebrated by 
women and children only. 

The 2nd of the month Caitra is a festival to the people of Kashmir, 
called Agdus (?), and celebrated on account of a victory gained by 

their king, Muttai, over the Turks. 
The 2nd Caitra According to their account he ruled 

over the whole world. But this is exactly 
what they say of most of their kings. However, they are incautious 
enough to assign him to a time not much anterior to our time, which 
leads to their lie being found out. It is, of course, not impossible that 
a Hindu should rule (over a huge empire), as Greeks, Romans, 
Babylonians, and Persians have done, but all the times not much 
anterior to our own are well known. (If, therefore, such had been the 
case, we should know it.) Perhaps the here mentioned king ruled 
over the whole of India, and they know of no other country but India 
and of no other nations but themselves. 

On the 11th there is a festival called Hindolicaitra, when they meet 
in the devagriha, or temple of Vasudeva, and swing his image to and 

On the Festivals and Festive Days 


11th Caitra 

22nd Caitra 

fro, as had been done with him when he 
was an infant in the cradle. They 
perform the same in their houses during 
the whole day and make merry. 

On the full moon’s day of Caitra there is a feast called Bahand 

(vasantal), a festival for the women. 
Full moon’s day when they put on their ornaments and 

demand presents from their husbands. 

The 22nd is a festival called caitra-cashati a day of merriment 

holy to Bhagavati, when people used 
to wash and to give alms. 

The 3rd Vaisakha is a festival for the women called Gaur-t-r(gauri- 
tritiyal ), holy to Gauri, the daughter of the mountain Himavant, the 

wife of Mahadeva. They wash and 
3rd Vaisakha dress gaily, they worship the image of 

Gauri and light lamps before it, they 
offer perfumes, abstain from eating, and play with swings. On the 
following day they give alms and eat. 

On the 10th Vaisakha all the Brahmans whom the kings have 
invited proceed forth to the open fields, and there they light great 
fires for the sacrifices during five days till full moon. They make the 
fires in sixteen different spots and in four different groups. In each 
group a Brahman performs the sacrifice, so that there are four per¬ 
forming priests as there are four Vedas. On the 16th they return home 

In this month occurs the vernal equinox, called Vasanta. They 

determine the day by calculation and 
Vernal equinox make it a festival, when people invite 

the Brahmans. 

On the 1st Jyaishtha, or new moon’s day, they celebrate a festival 

and throw the first-fruits of all seeds 
1st Jyaishtha into the water in order to gain thereby a 

favourable prognostic. 

The full moon’s day of this month is a festival to the women, 
Full moon’s day called Rupa-panca (?) 

All the days of the month Ashadha are devoted to alms-giving. It 

is also called Ahari During this time the 
household is provided with new vessels. 

On the full moon day of Sravana, they give banquets to the 
15th Sravana Brahmans. 

On the 8th Asvayuja, when the moon stands in the nineteenth 



India by Al-Biruni 

station, Mul^, begins the sucking of the sugarcane. It is a festival 
holy to Mahanavami, the sister 41 of Mahadeva, when they offer the 
first fruits of sugar and all other thing to her image which is called 
Bhagavati. They give much alms before it and kill kids. He who does 

not possess anything to offer, stands 
8th Asvayuja upright by the side of the idol, without 

ever sitting down, and will sometimes 
pounce upon whomsoever he meets and kill him. ... 

In the month Bhadrapada, when the moon stands in the tenth 
station, Magha, they celebrate a festival which they call Pitripakska 42 , 

i.e. the half of the month of the Fathers 
Bhadrapada, new moon because the moon’s entering this station 

falls near the time of new moon. They 
distribute alms during fifteen days in the name of the Fathers. 

On the 3rd Bhadrapada is the festival Harbali (?), for the women. 
It is their custom that a number of days before they sow all kinds of 

seeds in baskets, and they bring the 
3rd Bhadrapada baskets forward on this day after they 

have commenced growing. They throw 
roses and perfumes on them and play with each other during the 
whole night. On the following morning they bring them to the ponds, 
wash them, wash themselves, and give alms. 

On the 6th of this month, which is called Gaihat (?), when people 
6th Bhadrapada give food to those who are in prison. 

On the 8th, when the moonlight has reached half of its develop¬ 
ment, they have a festival called Dhruvagriha (?); they wash them¬ 
selves and eat well growing grain-fruit 
8th Bhadrapada that their children should be healthy. 

The women celebrate this festival when 
they are pregnant and desire to have children. ... 

When the moon stands in her fourth station, Rohini, they call this 
time Gunalahid (?), celebrating a festival during three days and 

making merry by playing with each 
16th Bhadrapada other, from joy over the birth of 

Vasudeva. ... 

.. . The 1 st Karttika, or new moon’s day, when the sun marches in 
Libra, is called Dibali 43 . Then people bathe, dress festively, make 

presents to each other of betel-leaves 
1st Karttika and areca-nuts; they ride to the temples 

to give alms and play merrily with each 

On the Festivals and Festive Days 


other till noon. In the night they light a great number of lamps in 
every place so that the air is perfectly clear. The cause of this festival 
is that Lakshmi, the wife of Vasudeva, once a year on this day 
liberates Bali, the son of Virocana, who is a prisoner in the seventh 
earth, and allows him to go out into the world. Therefore the festival 
is called Balirajya, i.e. the principality of Bali. ... 

In the same month, when full moon is perfect, they give banquets 
and adorn their women during all the days of the black half. ... 

On full moon’s day of the same month there is another festival of 
15th Margasirsha the women. 

On most of the days of the month Pausha they prepare great 
quantities of puhaval (?) i.e. a sweet dish which they eat. 

On the eighth day of the white half of Pausha, which is called 
Ashtaka, they make gatherings of the Brahmans, present them with 

dishes prepared from the plant A triplex 
8th Pausha hortensia, i.e. sarmak in Arabic 

(= orache), and show attentions to 


On the eighth day of the black half, which is called Sakartam, they 
eat turnips. 

The 3rd Magha, called Mahatriji (Magha-tritiya ?), is a feast for the 
women, and sacred to Gauri. They meet in the houses of the most 

prominent among them before the 
3rd Magha image of Gauri, place before it various 

sorts of costly dresses, pleasant per¬ 
fumes, and nice dishes. In each meeting-place they put 108 jugs full 
of water, and after the water has become cool, they wash with it four 
times at the four quarters of that night. On the following day they 
give alms, they give banquets and receive guests. The women’s 
washing with cold water is common to all the days of this month.... 

The full moon’s day of Phalguna is a feast to the women, called 
Odas (?), or also dhola", (i.e. dola), when they make fire on places 

lower than those on which they make it 
15th Phalguna G n the festival Camaha, and they throw 

the fire out of the village. 

On the following night, i.e. that of the 16th, called ShivaratrA 5 , 

they worship Mahadeva during the 
16th Phalguna whole night; they remain awake, and do 

not lie down to sleep, and offer to him 

perfumes and flowers. 


India by Al-Biruni 

On the 23rd, which is called Puyattan(?) 9 they eat rice with butter 
23rd Phalguna and sugar. 

The Hindus of Multan have a festival which is called Sambapura- 
A festival in Multan yatra ; they celebrate it in honour of the 

sun, and worship him. ... 


On Days Which Are Held In Special Veneration, 
On Lucky And Unlucky Times, And On Such 
Times As Are Particularly Favourable For 
Acquiring In Them Bliss In Heaven 

The single days enjoy different degrees of veneration according to 
certain qualities which they attribute to them. They distinguish, e.g. 
the Sunday, because it is the day of the sun and the beginning of the 
week, as the Friday is distinguished in Islam. 

To the distinguished days further belong amavasya and pumima, i.e. 
the days of conjuction (new moon) and opposition (full moon), 

because they are the limits of the wane 
The days of new moon ^ the i ncrease of the moonlight. In 

and full moon accordance with the belief of the 

Hindus regarding this increase and wane, the Brahmans sacrifice 
continually to the fire in order to earn heavenly reward. They let the 
portions of the angels accumulate, which are the offerings thrown 
into the fire at moonlight during the whole time from new moon to 
full moon. Then they begin distributing these portions over the 
angels in the time from full moon to new moon, till at the time of new 
moon'nothing any more remains of them. We have already mentioned 


India by Al-Biruni 

that new moon and full moon are noon and midnight of the 
nychthemeron of the Fathers. Therefore the uninterrupted alms¬ 
giving on these two days is always done in honour of the Fathers. 

Four other days are held in special veneration, because, according 

The four days on which ^ Hindus, with them the single 

the four yugas are said to yugas of the present caturyuga have 

have commenced commenced, viz.:- 

The 3rd Vaisakha, called kshairita (?), on which the kritayuga is 
believed to have commenced. 

The 9th Karttika, the beginning of the tretayuga. 

The 15th Magha, the beginning of the dvaparayuga. 

The 13th of Asvayuja, the beginning of the kaliyuga. 

According to my opinion, these days are festivals, sacred to the 
yugas, instituted for the purposes of almsgiving or for the perform¬ 
ance of some rites and ceremonies, as, e.g. the commemoration-days 
in the year of the Christians. However, we must deny that the four 
yugas could really have commenced on the days here mentioned. 

[Al-Biruni criticises the basis of the calculations for determining 
the actual day of the commencement of the four yagas. He thinks that 
such an exact determination could only be made by ‘resorting to very 
artificial ways of interpretation.’] 

The times which are specially favourable to earn a heavenly 
The days called punyakala reward in them are called punyakala .... 

No doubt, most of the feast days enumerated in the preceding 
belong to this kind of days, for they are devoted to almsgiving and 
banqueting. If people did not expect to gain thereby a reward in 
heaven, they would not approve of the rejoicings and merriments 
which are characteristic of these days. 

Notwithstanding the nature of the punyakala is such as here explain¬ 
ed, some of them are considered as lucky, others as unlucky days. 

Those days are lucky when the planets migrate from one sign into 
the other, especially the sun. These times are called Samkranti The 

most propitious of them are the days of 
Samkranti the equinoxes and solstices, and of 

these the most propitious is the day of 
the vernal equinox. It is called bikhu or shibu (vishuva ), as the two 
sounds sh and kh may be exchanged for each others, and may also, by 
a metathesis, change their place. 

As, however, a planet’s entering a new sign does not require more 
than a moment of time, and during it, people must offer to the fire the 


On Days which are Held in Special Veneration 

offering santa (?) with oil gnd com, the Hindus have given a greater 
extent to these times, making them begin with the moment when the 
eastern edge of the body of the sun touches the first part of the sign; 
reckoning as their middle the moment when the sun s centre reaches 
the first part of the sign, which is in astronomy considered as the time 
of the migration (of the planet from one sign to the other), and 
reckoning as the end that moment when the western edge of the sun’s 
body touches the first part of the sign. This process lasts, in the case 
of the sun, nearly two hours. 

(Two different methods for calculating the moment of Samkranti 
are mentioned. Pp. 188-191.] 

... Most propitious times are, further, the times of solar and lunar 
eclipses. At that time, according to their belief, all the waters of the 

earth become as pure as that of the 
Times of eclipses Ganges. They exaggerate the venera¬ 

tion of these times to such a degree 
that many of them commit suicide, wishing to die at such a time as 
promises them heavenly bliss. However, this is only done by Vaisyas 
and Sudras, whilst it is forbidden to Brahmans and Kshatriyas, who in 
consequence do not commit suicide. [Vide, however, p. 253.] 

Further, the times of Parvan are propitious, i.e. those times in 

which an eclipse may take place. And 
even if there is no eclipse at such a time, 
Parvan and yoga j t j s considered quite as propitious as 

the time of an eclipse itself. 

The times of the yogas are as propitious as those of the eclipses. 
We have devoted a special chapter to them (chap, lxxix ). .. 

... Times which are considered as unlucky, to which no merit 
whatsoever is attributed, are e.g. the times of earthquakes. Then the 

Hindus beat with the pots of their 
Times of earthquakes households against the earth and break 

them, in order to get a good omen and to 
banish the mishap. As times of a similar ill nature, the book Samhita 
further enumerates the moments of landslips, the falling of stars, 
red glow in the sky, the combustion of the earth by lightning, the 
appearance of comets, the occurrence of events contrary both to 
nature and custom, the entering of the wild beasts into the villages, 
rainfall when it is not the season for it, the trees putting fortji leaves 
when it is not the season for it, when the nature of one season of the 
year seems transferred to another, and more of the like. ... 


On The Karanas 

We have already spoken of the lunar days called tilhi, and have 
explained that each lunar day is shorter then a civil day, 

because the lunar month has thirty lunar 
Explanation of kamna days, but only a little more than twenty- 

nine and half civil days. 

As the Hindus call these tithis nychthemera, they also call the 
former half of a tithi day, the latter half night. Each of these halves 
has a separate name, and they all of them (i.e. all the halves of the 
lunar days of the lunar month) are called karanas. 

(The rule for finding out a karana is given. P. 195.J 

The word buht is of Indian origin. In the Indian language it is bhukti 
the daily motion of a planet). If the corrected motion is meant, 
it is called bhukti sphuta. If the mean 
Explanation of bhukti motion is meant, it is called buhkti 

madhyama, and if the buht which renders 
equal is meant, it is called bhuktyantara, i.e. the difference between 
the two bhuktis. 

The lunar days of the month have special names, which we exhibit 
in the following diagram. If you know the lunar day in which you are, 

On the Karanas 


Names of the lunar days 
of the half of a month 

you find, by the side of the number of 
the day, its name, and opposite it the 
karana in which you are. If that which has 
elapsed of the current day is less than half a day, the karana is a 
diurnal one; if that which has elapsed of it is more than half a day, it 
is a nocturnal one. This is the diagram:— 

[The diagram is given, p. 197.] 

The Hindus attribute to some of the karanas dominants, as is their 
custom. Further they give rules showing what during each karana 

must be done or not, rules which are 

Table of kamms with their similar to collection of astrological 
dominants and prognostics , , , , . 

prognostics (as to lucky or unlucky 

days, etc.). If we give here a second diagram of the karanas, we 
thereby simply mean to confirm what we had said already, and to 
repeat a subject which is unknown amongst us, because learning is 
the fruit of repetition. 

[Diagrams showing the prognostics of the four fixed and seven 
movable karanas are given. 

Al-Biruni goes on to point out that Alkindi and some other Arab 
authors have adopted the Indian system of the karanas but they had 
not quite fully understood it. Though they had improved upon it in 
some ways but ‘the thing’ had become ‘totally different from what it 
originally was.’ Both the methods, that of the Hindus and that of 
Alkindi must be treated separately. Pp. 198-203.] 


On The Yogas 

Explanation of vyatipata 
and mid In it a 

These are times which the Hindus think to be most unlucky and 
during which they abstain from all action. They are numerous. We 
shall here mention them. 

There are two yogas regarding which all Hindus agree, viz.:— 

(1) The moment when sun and moon together stand on two 

circles, which are, as it were, seizing 
each other, i.e. each pair of circles, the 
declinations of which, on one and the 

same side (of either solstice), are equal. This yoga is called vyatipata. 

(2) The moment when sun and moon stand together on two equal 
circles, i.e. each pair of circles, the declinations of which, on 
different sides (of either solstice), are equal. This is called vaidhrita. 

[Different methods for computing the vyatipata and vaidhrita, as 
given by Pulisa and the author of Karanatilaka are given. Al-Biruni 
also refers to two books which he prepared on the subject, including 
one titled Arabic Khandakhadyaka which he had ‘composed for’ a 
Kashmiri named Sayavabala. 46 A Table showing the names and the 
qualities of the yogas is also given. Pp. 204-210.] 


On The Introductory Principles Of Hindu 
Astrology, With A Short Description Of Their 
Methods Of Astrological Calculations 

Our fellow-believers in these (Muslim) countries are not acquainted 
with the Hindu methods of astrology, and have never had an 

opportunity of studying an Indian book 

among Mu r hamma U d n a k n n S OWn on the Sub J eCt ' In consequence, they 

imagine that Hindu astrology is the 

same as theirs and relate all sorts of things as being of Indian origin, 
of which we have not found a single trace with the Hindus 
themselves. As in the preceding part of this our book we have given 
something of everything, we shall also give as much of their 
astrological doctrine as will enable the reader to discuss questions of 
a similar nature with them. If we were to give an exhaustive 
representation of the subject, this task would detain us very long, 
even if we limited ourselves to delineate only the leading principles 
and avoided all details. 

First, the reader must know that in most of their prognostics they 
simply rely on means like auguring from the flight of birds and 
physiognomy, that they do not—as they ought to do—draw con¬ 
clusions, regarding the affairs of the sublunary world, from the 


India £x Al-Biruni 

seconds (sic) of the stars, which are the events of the celestial sphere. 

Regarding the number seven as that of the planets, there is no 
difference between us and them. They call them graha. Some of them 

are throughout lucky, viz. Jupiter, 
On the planets Venus and the Moon, which are called 

saumyagraha. Other three are throughout 
unlucky, viz. Saturn, Mars, and the Sun, which are called kruragraha. 
Among the latter, they also count the dragon’s head, though in 
reality it is not a star. The nature of one planet is variable and 
depends upon the nature of that planet with which it is combined, 
whether it be lucky or unlucky. This is Mercury. However, alone by 
itself, it is lucky. 

[Table listing the names of the seven planets, the various 
information obtainable from them regarding the sex and character of 
human beings, the elements and the seasons indicated by them, etc. 
as also some explanatory notes, on the Table, are given. A Table 
showing the peculiar qualities of each zodiacal sign is given, 
pp. 213-219.] 

The height or altitude of a planet is called, in the Indian language, 

uccastha , its particular degree paramoccastha. the depth or dejectio of a 

^ planet is called nicastha. its particular 

Explanation of some tech- , . . w . .. 

nical terms of astrology degree paramamcdsthd. Atuldtiikona is a 

powerful influence, attributed to a 

planet, when it is in the gaudium in one of its two houses. ... 

They do not refer the aspedus trigoni to the elements and the 
elementary natures, as it is our custom to do, but refer them to the 
points of the compass in general, as has been specified in the Table. 

They call the turning zodiacal sign (tropikon) cararasi, i.e. moving, 
the fixed one ( stereon) sthirarasi , i.e. the resting one, and the double¬ 
bodied one (disoma) dvisvabhava, i.e. both together. 

As we have given a table of the zodiacal signs, we next give a table 
of the houses (domus ), showing the qualities of each of them. The 

one half of them above the earth they 
The houses call chatra, i.e. parasol, and the half 

under the earth they call nau, ie. ship. 
Further, they call the half ascending to the midst of heaven and the 
other half descending to the cardo of the earth, dhanu, i.e. the bow. 
The cardines they call kendra (y kentron ), the next following houses 
panaphara (epanaphora ), and the inclining houses apoklima ( apoklima ):- 

[Table given. Pp. 221-222.] 

Introductory Principles of Hindu Astrology 

The hitherto mentioned details are in reality the cardinal points of 
Hindu astrology, viz. the planets, zodiacal signs, and houses. He who 
knows how to find out what each of them means or portends 
deserves the title of a clever adept and of a master in this art. 

[Al-Biruni then goes on to describe the ‘division of the zodiacal 
signs in minor portions’, the Indian astrologer’s ideas about ‘the 
friendship and enmity’ of planets, ‘the four forces of each planet’, 
‘the years of life which the single planets bestow’ and ‘the three 
species of these years’, etc. Pp. 222—231.] 

From the description given in the preceding pages, the reader 
learns how the Hindus compute the duration of human life. He 

learns from the positions of the planets. 
Special methods of inquiry which they occupy on the origin (i.e. at 
Oh, Hindu XX**- the moment of birth) and at every given 

moment of life in what way the years of the different planets are 
distributed over it. To these things Hindu astrologers join certain 
methods of the astrology of nativities, which other nations do not 

take into account. ... 

I mention these things in order to show the reader the difference 
between the astrological methods of our people and those of the 

Hindus. Their theories and methods 
On comets regarding aerial and cosmic phenomena 

are very lengthy and very subtle at the 
same time. As we have limited ourselves to mentioning in their 
astrology of nativities, only the theory of the determination of the 
length of life, we shall in this department of science limit ourselves to 
the species of the comets, according to the statements of those 
among them who are supposed to know the subject thoroughly. The 
analogy of the comets shall afterwards be extended to other more 
remote subjects. 

The head of the Dragon is called rahu, the tail ketu The Hindus 
seldom speak of the tail, they only use the head. In general, all 
comets which appear on heaven are also called ketu 

[Quotation from Varahamihira’s Samhita regarding different kinds 
of comets, their prognostics, etc. are given. A Table showing the 
names of the comets, the number of stars each one of them has, the 
directions from which they appear, their prognostics, etc. is also 

A conscientious scholar, Al-Biruni notes that the manuscript at 
his disposal was defective and so certain entries in some of the 


India by Al-Biruni 

columns had to be left blank. Pp. 234-238.] 

The author (Varahamihira) had divided the comets into three 

_ . „ classes: the high ones near the stars; the 

Further quotations from the n ° 

Samhita of Varahamihira flowing ones near the earth; the middle 

ones in the air, and he mentions each 
one of the high and middle classes of them in our Table separately.... 

The Jews hold the same opinion regarding the comets as we hold 
regarding the stone of the Ka’ba (viz. that they all are stones which 
have fallen down from heaven). Accordiing to the same book of 
Varahamihira, comets ,are such beings as have been on account of 
their merits raised to heaven, whose period of dwelling in heaven has 
elapsed and who are then redescending to the earth. 

[A\Table giving similar information, as above, in regard to these 
three types of comets is given. Pp. 241-244.] 

This is the doctrine of the Hindus regarding the comets and their 

Only few Hindus occupy themselves in the same way as physical 
scholars among the anicient Greeks did,'with exact scientific 

researches on the comets and on the 
On meteorology nature of the other phenomena of 

heaven (tametedra ), for also in these 
things they are not able to rid themselves of the doctrines of their 
theologians. ... 

As regards the phenomena of the sky, they say, for instance, that 
the thunder is the roaring of A irarata, i.e. the riding-elephant of Indra 
the ruler when it drinks from the pond Manasa, rutting and roaring 
with a hoarse voice. 

The rainbow (lit. bow of Kuzah) is the bow of Indra, as our 
common people consider it as the bow of Rustam. 

We think now that what we have related in this book will be suffi¬ 
cient for any one who wants to converse with the Hindus, and to dis¬ 
cuss with them questions of religion, 
Conclusion science, or literature, on the very basis of 

their own civilisation. Therefore, we shall 
finish this treatise, which has already, both by its length and breadth, 
wearied the reader. We ask God to pardon us for every statement of 
ours which is not true. We ask Him to help us that we may adhere to 
that which yields Him satisfaction. We ask Him to lead us to a 
proper insight into the nature of that which is false and idle, that we 
may sift it so as to distinguish the chaff from the wheat. All good 


Introductory Principles of Hindu Astrology 

comes from Him, and it is He who is clement towards His slaves. 
Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds, and His blessings be upon 
the Prophet Muhammad and his whole family! 

Select References* 

1. Edward C. Sachau, The Chronology of Ancient Nations, London, 1879, Introduction, 
dd V-XIV. 

2. Edward C. Sachau. Albiruni’s India, London, 1888 (Delhi reprint, 1964), 




6 . 


8 . 


Introduction, pp. VH-L. . f 

(Both these Introductions by Sachau, the scholar who introduced Al-Biruni to 
the wider English-speaking world, contain a very exhaustive account of the life 
of Al-Biruni and significance of his work.) 

Al-Biruni Commemoration Volume, Iran Society,. Calcutta, 1951. 

'indo-Iranica, Vol. V, no. 4, 1952, ‘Al-Biruni Millenary Celebrations’. 

Hakim Mohammad Said, Ed., Al-Biruni Commemoration Volume, Karachi, 1979. 
(These volumes contain some very good articles on the life and works of 
Al-Biruni. These articles have not been separately listed here.) 

K A Nizami, edL Politics and Society During the Early Medieval Period (Collected 
Works of Professor M. Habib), ‘Abu Raihan Albenmi on the National 
Character of the Hindus’, pp. 25-32 ; ibid, ‘Hindu Society in the Early Middle 
Ages’, pp. 137-57; ibid, ‘Indian Culture and Social Life at the Time of the 
Turkish Invasions’, pp. 152-228. 

(These articles of Professor Habib were written in 1930-31 and 1940, and 
have been reproduced in this volume. They contain some very incisive 
comments on Al-Biruni’s observations, and present summarised version of some 
portions of the text) 

Elliot and Dowson, History of India As Told By Its Own Historians, Vol. II, Aligar 
Reprint, 1952, with Introduction by M. Habib, pp. 1-8 and Notes. 
Encyclopaedia of Islam, article by D.J. Boilot entitled ‘Al-Biruni’, new ed. London, 

1960, 1, 1236-38. , 

C.C. Gillespie, ed.. Dictionary of Scientific Biography , article by E.s. Kennedy 
entitled‘Al-Biruni’, New York, 1970, 11, 147-58. 

Ainslie T. Embree, Alberuni’s India, (abridged edition). New York, 1971, 
Introduction, pp. V-XIX. (See also p. XI. note 2). 

• The articles listed here are from among those relating to the life of Al-Biruni and some aspect 
of his work on India. For a fuller Ust of articles on Al-Biruni see I D. Pearson, 

1906-55, Cambridge, 1958, pp. 146-48 and its subsequent issues. Also serial nos. 7, 23 ana la 


276 India by Al-Biruni 

10. R.C. Mqjumdar, ‘A Passage in Alberani’s India—*A Nanda Era V,J.Ji.O.R.S.. 
IX, 1923, pp. 417-18. 

11. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Albiruni’s India, I.C., 1, no. 1, 1927, pp. 31-35; ibid* no. .2, 
pp. 223-30; ibid., no. 3, pp. 473-87. 

12. Z. Ahmad, Al-Biruni, I.C., V, 1931, pp. 343-51, ibui. VI, 1932, pp. 363-69. 

13. F. Kerenkow, ‘Abu’r Rahman Al-Biruni’, 7. C., VI, 1932, pp. 528-34. 

14. S.H. Bami, ‘Al-Biruni’s Scientific Achievements’, ibid., 1952-53, pp. 37-48. 

15. A.H. Dani, ‘Al-Biruni on Sanskrit Literature*, J.PHS., 1, 1953, pp. 301-17. 

16. S.A. Ali, ‘Al-Biruni, the Scholar and the Writer*, Progs. Voi Pakistan Historical 
Conference, 1953, pp. 243-52. 

17. M.L. Roy Choudhury, ‘Abu Raihan Al-Birom and his Indian Studies’, /./. Vol. 
VII, 1954, pp. 9-22. 

18. B.C. Law, ‘Al-Biruni’s Knowledge of Indian Geography’, /./., Vol. VII, 1954, 

pp. 1-26. * 

19. M. Yasin, ‘Al-Biruni in India*, I.C., XLIX, 1975, pp. 207-13. 

20. M.S. Khan, ‘Al-Biruni on Indian Metaphysics’,*^. LV, 1981, pp. 

21. Gonindar Kaur, ‘Al-Biruni: An Early Student of Comparative Religions’, ibid., 
LVI, 1982, pp. 149-63. 

22. M.S. Khan, ‘Al-Biruni and the Political History of India’, Oriens. , E.J. Bnll, 
Leiden, Vol. 25-26, pp. 86-115. 

23. Maqbul Ahmad, el at, ‘Al-Biruni, An Introduction to his life and Writings’, 
paper presented at the New Delhi Symposium on Al-Biruni. 1971. 

24. M. Ghiyasuddin, unpublished Ph. D. thesis (1968), ‘A Critical Analysis of the 
Writings of Al-Biruni Pertaining to India’, Maulana Azad Library, A.M.U., 


1. ’Abu-Sahl ‘Abd-Almun‘im Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Nuh At-Tiflisi (p.4). 1 
It is rather surprising that Al-Biruni does not give any biographical 
particulars about this apparently important personage at whose 
suggestion and for whose pleasure he prepared his great work on 
India. On the basis of the respectable prefix of Ustad. (master), added 
generally to the names of high civil officers, not generals, Sachau 
suggests that he was a high civil functionary in Sultan Mahmud’s 
Court, and was probably of Persian origin. 

2. Mutazila sect (p. 4). One of the early religio-philosophical 
movements in Islam. The founder of this school of rationalism was 
Wasil Ibn Ata (d. 748). 

The Mutazilites asserted the principle of free-will as against pre¬ 
destination, and maintained that the divine attributes of God should 
not be regarded as co-existent with God, because that would destroy 
the concept of the unity of God. They also believed in the dogma of 
the ‘creation’ of the Quran. The movement gained influence and 
importance during the Khilafat of Al-M’amun (813-33). 

Its doctrines were influenced by the Greek philosophy, and 
evoked strong controversies and produced much polemical litera¬ 
ture. Al-Biruni wanted his own book on India to be free from any 
such polemical bias. 

3. Abu-Al-‘Abbas Aleranshahri (p.5). Author of a general work 
on the history of religions, including.some account of Hinduism and 
Buddhism. One of the rare instances in which Al-Biruni approv¬ 
ingly refers to the work of an earlier Muslim writer on Indian culture. 

1 This and the subsequent references to page numbers within brackets indicate the 
pages of the present abridged edition. 


India by Al-Biruni 

Al-Biruni’s study of the Indian society and religion is otherwise 
almost entirely based on indigenous sources or personal information 
and observation. 

To some early Arab geographers Eranshahr denoted the whole 
area of the Sasanid empire but here it indicates a smaller region or a 

4. Zarkan (p.5). Al-Biruni does not give any particulars about 
him except that he was the author of a treatise on Buddhism which 
Eranshahri (no. 3 above) had incorporated in his own book. Al- 
Biruni does not think very highly about the authenticity of Zarkan’s 
account but Sachau suggests that whatever brief information Al- 
Biruni gives about Buddhism is based on Zarkan’s book. 

5. Samkhya (p. 6) (Reasoning). It is the name of a school of 
thought founded by the legendary saint Kapila. It is characterised by 
a rigid dualism (between matter and spirit) and a fundamental 
atheism. For Al-Biruni’s description of the ideas of the Samkhya 
school of philosophers, see pp. 23-24. 

Al-Biruni mentions Samkhya as a book composed by Kapila 
(p. 60). He had translated this book into Arabic and has quoted from 
it extensively on matters of religion and philosophy. Discussing its 
identification, Sachau draws attention to the “so-called Samkhya- 
pravacanam (‘The Sankhya Aphorism of Kapila’)” and two other 
works, the Samkhya Karika of Isvara Krishna (probably of the 4th 
century A.D.) and the Bhashya of Gaudapada (see note 17 A below). 
He writes that though there are similarities in these works they are 
not identical. 

It may be added that the earliest document of Samkhya school is 
the Shashtitantra composed by Varshagnya in the 1st or 2nd century 
A.D. The Samkhya school offers salvation to both the twice-born and 
the once-bom, whereas the Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta restrict it to 
the twice-born only. 

6. Patanjali (Patanjala ?) (p. 6). Sachau notes that the Arabic text 
generally has kitab-i batanjal (in Arabic there is no letter for p, for 
which the letter b is used), which may be translated as ‘the book of 
(the author) Patanjali’ or ‘the book (which is called) Patanjali or 
Patanjala.’ Only at one place, Al-Biruni writes Sahib-i kitab-i Batanjal 
or the author of the book of Patanjali, where Batanjal means the title 
of the book, not the name of the author. At two other places, the 
word Batanjal, however, indicates the name of the author (p. 37). 
Sachau, therefore suggests that the name of the author was probably 



taken to indicate the title of his book too. Regarding the pronun¬ 
ciation, Sachau points out that in the Arabic text it is written with a 
long a, but there was no uniformity in the transliteration on this 
point. He therefore wrote it as Patanjali, as written in Sanskrit 

Like the Samkhya, mentioned above, this is one of the books 
translated into Arabic by Al-Biruni, and extensively quoted by him 
on matters of religion and philosophy (p. 60). 

Patanjali was the author of Yugasutra which is assigned to the 4th 
century A.D. Sachau, however, points out that ‘Alberuni’s Patanjali 
is totally different from “The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali”. 

7. ‘The book Gita, a part of the book Bharata' (p. 13). Like the 
above-mentioned two books, Al-Biruni quotes extensively from it on 
matters of religion and philosophy. It may be noted that he calls it a 
part of the Bharata, and does not mention the title Mahabharata. 

Sachau draws attention to the differences in the text used by Al- 
Biruni and the present Bhagwad Gita. He thinks that Al-Biruni’s copy 
of the text was ‘more ancient’ and fuller, and expresses surprise that 
no trace of that copy has survived. (See last para of note 12 below on 
the question of the original Sanskrit texts used by Al-Biruni.) 

Sachau also suggests that Al-Biruni was probably using a com¬ 
mentary, not the text of the Gita. 

8 . Jabriyya sect (p. 14). Derived from the word Jabr (compulsion), 
the followers of this school of thought emphasised the all- 
powerfulness of God, and opposed the Mu‘tazilite doctrine of free¬ 

9. Abu-alfath Albusti (p. 17). A famous poet in the court of 
Sultan Mahmud and Mas‘ud. He belonged to Bust (Afghanistan), 
and had served earlier under the Samanids. He died in 1039. 

10. Buddhodana and the Shamanians (p. 19). Sachau’s suggestion 
that the word Buddhodana is a misreading of Suddhodana, the father 
of Gautam Buddha, is not very acceptable because it does not fit in 
the context in which it occurs. His other suggestion, that the work of 
Eranshahri (see note 3 above) which is obviously Al-Biruni’s source 
on this point, perhaps contained the word Suddhodana, not Bud¬ 
dhodana (they look similar in Arabic writing), and that Suddhodana 
‘would be Sauddhodani, i.e. the son of Suddhodana, or Buddha’, is 
more acceptable. In fact, at another place (p. 177) Al-Biruni himself 
writes this—‘Buddhodana, the son of Suddhodana.’ Sachau seems to 
have missed this clear reference. 


India by Al-Biruni 

The word Shamaniaris is used in Arabic to denote the Buddhists. It 
is derived from a Prakritic form of Sanskrit, Sramana. Al-Biruni also 
called them the Muhammira (p. 177), or the red-robed ones, which 
obvijusly refers to the red-brown cloaks of the Buddhists. 

11. The Vishnu-Purana (p. 29). It is the name of one of the Puranas 
(see note 16A below). It is divided into six parts, five of which deal 
with cosmic matters. The sixth book which is the central portion of 
the work gives an account of the sports and exploits of a youthful 
Krishna whom it regards as an incarnation of Vishnu. 

12. Vishnu Dharma (p. 35). Al-Biruni mentions this work in the 
chapter on the religious literature of the Hindus (Chapter XII), and 
explains that it means ‘Religion of God who in this case is 
understood to be Narayana’. 

Sachau finds himself unable to identify this work, and he writes 
that ‘it is a sort of Purana, full of those legends and notions charac¬ 
teristic of the literature of the Puranas’, but points out that Al-Biruni 
does not include it in his list of the Puranas (p. 60). He writes that 
the traditions of Saunaka, often quoted by Al-Biruni (p. 233) were 
probably taken from the Vishnu Dharma. He adds that the work may 
be the same as Vishnu-Dharmottara-Purana which ‘is said to have 
comprehended Brahmagupta’s Brahmasiddhanta .’ Al-Biruni had a 
copy of this work, and Sachau suggests that ‘he (Al-Biruni) had it 
perhaps as a portion of this larger work.’ 

For a discussion of the general problem of the authenticity of the 
Sanskrit texts used by Al-Biruni, and the identification of some of the 
works cited by him, see Dr J. Gonda, ‘Remarks on Al-Biruni’s 
Quotations from Sanskrit Texts’, ACV, Pp. 111-18. Dr Gonda 
writes that the accuracy of these extracts has generally been 
vindicated with the discoveries of more copies of such texts and a 
better understanding of the Puranic traditions. On the identification 
of this particular work, Sachau’s surmise has been confirmed by 
other writers. 

13. The four castes and the Antyaja (pp. 45-46j. This portion 
relating to the caste hierarchy and the one relating to the rites and 
customs observed by members of the different castes (Chapters IX, 
LXIII & LXIV) constitute in many ways the most important part of 
Al-Biruni’s account. No such detailed and perceptive account of the 
caste system as it prevailed in early medieval India is available in 
any other non-Indian source. 

B.P. Mazumdar ( Socio-Economic History of Northern India, (10JO- 



1194 A.D.), 1960, p. 79) comments that Al-Biruni must have been 
stating the position as it was given in the ancient scriptures and not 
what actually obtained in the Hindu society at the time. He adds that 
at the beginning of the 11th century there was much caste proli¬ 
feration, and there were a number of mixed castes too. 

Actually, Al-Biruni’s account also gives some glimpses of the 
actual situation. He writes, for example, in regard to the ‘latter two 
classes’ (Vaisya and Sudra) that much as they differed from each 
other ‘they live together in the same towns and villages, mixed 
together in the same houses and lodgings.’ This may also be taken as 
indicative of inter-caste marriages to some extent. 

As regards the Antyajas, Professor Mazumdar writes that at the 
time when the early smritis were composed the untouchables were 
called antyajas, and adds that the enumeration of their subdivisions 
varied, some sources mentioning 7, others 12. Al-Biruni mentions 
them ‘after the Sudras’ and adds that they were ‘not reckoned 
amongst any caste, but only as members of a certain craft or profes¬ 
sion’. He enlists them as ‘the fuller, shoe-maker, juggler, the basket 
and shield maker, the sailor, fisherman, the hunter of wild animals 
and of birds and the weaver.’ Professor Mazumdar identifies them 
with the Rajaka, Charmakara, Nata or Sailushika, Buruda, Navika, 
Kaivarta, Bhillas and Kuvindaka, and adds that they were regarded 
as Candala or Antyaja in early smriti literature but Manu regarded 
them as Sudra. 

14. Karmatians (p. 53). A well-organised extremist sect which 
appears at first to have been associated with the Isma'ili movement 
but whose origins remain obscure. It laid stress on esoteric inter¬ 
pretation of some religious doctrines and was characterised by some 
communistic tendencies. Its followers, called the ‘Bolsheviks of 
Islam’ by some modem writers, stressed religious tolerance, 
organised workers and artisans into guilds, and advocated com¬ 
munity of property and wives. 

Hamdan Qarmat, an Iraqi peasant, was the founder of the sect, 
and its followers came to be known as Qarmatians. They establish¬ 
ed a state on the western shore of Persian Gulf (899) which became 
a constant source of trouble to the Abbasid Caliphate. In 930 they 
attacked and seized the sacred city of Makka and carried away the 
holy Black Stone which was returned 20 years later by the order of 
the Fatimid Khalifa al Mansur (946-52). 

Later they established their rule over the greater part of upper 


India by Al-Biruni 

Sind. They were defeated and suppressed by Sultan Mahmud (to 
which Al-Biruni is referring here) but regained their position after his 
death, and had to be suppressed again in 1175 by Sultan Muizuddin 
Muhammad Ghori (1173-1206). 

15. Varahamihira (p. 53). The famous Indian astronomer of the 
6th century A.D., and author of the well-known works Pancha- 
siddhantika and Brihat Samhita both of which are frequently referred to 
by Al-Biruni. The latter book is on astrology, but also contains 
information about many other subjects, including architecture, 
iconography, gardening, erotics, etc. H. Kern edited it in the 
Bibliotheca Indica series (1864, 1865) and also translated it into 
English in Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, London, New Series, Vols. 

16. Vasukra, the Kashmirian, putting the Veda into writing 
(p. 58). This reference to the Veda being put to writing sometime 
around 10-11th century is very significant. It is a great pity that no 
copy of the work has survived. 

16 A. The Puranas (p_60). The word Purana means ancient. As a 
category of literature these are ancient religious poems, as also a 
corpus of legends and religious instructions. Content-wise, these 
were originally a book of origins, which is evident from their five 
characteristic features, viz. creation, re-creation, genealogies of 
gods and sages, the four cardinal aeons ( yugas ) and genealogy of 
kings. In their present form the texts, according to A.L. Basham ( The 
Wonder that Was India, paperback edition, 1967, p. 301) do not go 
beyond the Gupta period (319-550 A.D.), but their legendary 
material is very old. 

Al-Biruni gives a list of the names of 18 Puranas as he had heard 
and noted down, and another somewhat different list, also of 18 
names, read to him from the Vishnu-Purana. He adds that of these he 
had seen portions only of the Matsya, Aditya and Vayu Puranas. 

17. Srnriti (p. 60). The Smriti (Remembered, or Tradition) denotes 
a category of religious literature comprising law-books. The most 
famous among these is the A ianu-Smriti (Law Book of Manu) 
composed in its final form during the 2nd to 3rd century A.D. Al- 
Biruni however mentions Smriti here as a particular book containing 
‘commandments and prohibitions’. 

It may be noted that the list of Smriti books given by Al-Biruni is 
very important in one respect. It contains the names of some minor 
Smritis, such as Atri, Harita and Daksha. This helps us to determine 



the lower time-limit of the period of their compilation. He lists 
Likhita and Sankha (nos. 14 and 15, p. 60).as two separate books, 
but they are one— Sankha Likhita. 

17 A. Gauda the anchorite (p. 60). Al-Biruni does not mention 
specifically the name of Gaudapada, the preceptor of the great 
Sankaracharya, but Sachau suggests that Gauda the anchorite 
mentioned here may be identified with Gaudapada. The absence of 
any reference by Al-Biruni to Sankaracharya* is surprising. 

18. Nyayabhasa composed by Kapila (p. 60). Sachau writes that 
he is not sure about the transliteration of this word in the Arabic text, 
where it looks like Naybhash. He also writes that the contents of the 
book bear no relation to the Nyaya philosophy of Gautama but are 
identical with the Mimamsa philosophy of Jamini whose name is 
mentioned just a little later. 

The Nyaya is one of the six traditional schools of Hindu philo¬ 
sophy, of which the chief document is the Nyayasutra of Akshapada 
Gautam (4th century A.D.). It was commented upon by another 
scholar in the 16th century and this commentary is known as the 
Nyayabhashya. The author of this commentary is unknown but Al- 
Biruni states here that it was written by Kapila. 

19. Mimamsa (p. 61) (Inquiry). A school of thought founded by 
the sage Jaimini. Its original objective was to explain the Veda , which 
it regarded as primeval and superhuman. There are two schools of 
Mimamsa philosophy derived from the Vedas. One, known as Purva 
Mimamsa, deals with Vedic rituals, while the other, Uttara Mimamsa 
(also known as Vedanta) concentrates on the spiritual side of the 
Vedic literature. 

Al-Biruni is referring here to the former. The Purva Mimamsa Sutra 
of Jaimini is a work of the 4-5th century A.D. 

20. The book Laukayata ($*c) (p. 61). Sachau notes that the Loka- 
yata school of thought was founded by Brihaspati, author of Barhas- 
patyasutram. Its followers were materialist thinkers who did not 
believe in any self or entity beyond the material body and its needs. 
They believed that perception alone was the source of proof or 
knowledge. Al-Biruni who uses the term as the name of a book 
seems to be referring to some book by a writer of this school. 

20A. The book Agastymata (p. 61). There are two books whose 
titles bear the prefix Agastya. The first is the Agastya-Sutiveshna- 
Samvada, a work of the Ramaite sect of the Bhakti school which is 
assigned to the period between the 6th and 10th century A.D. The 


India by Al-Biruni 

other text is the Agastyasutra which together with the Devi Bhagwata 
constitutes the chief document of a sect of the Sakta school which 
seeks release through a total devotion to a supreme goddess, Devi. It 
may be assigned to the latter half of the early middle ages. It is not 
clear as to whether Al-Biruni is referring here to either of these two 
works or some other one. 

21. Panini (p. 63). The name of the famous Indian grammarian of 
the 4th century B.C., and the author of the great Sanskrit grammar, 
Astadhyayi (Eight Chapters). 

22. Abul’aswad Addu’ali (p. 64). The originator of Arabic gram¬ 
mar according to literary tradition. He died in 681. 

23. Sindhind (p. 70). Al-Biruni writes that the Indians called every 
standard work on astronomy a Siddhanta. One such work, the 
Brahmasiddhanta of Brahmagupta (note 25, below) was translated 
into Arabic by Al-Fazari by the order of Khalifa Mansur (754-75) 
and it was called Sindhind It was the earliest work which acquainted 
the Arabs with Indian astronomy. 

24. Paulisa and Pulisa (p. 70). Al-Biruni uses the two names for 
two different persons. The former was a Greek, and the author of a 
work on astronomy, the Paulisa Siddhanta. He has been identified 
with the classical astronomer Paul of Alexandria. The latter was a 
commentator of that work. 

25. Brahmagupta (p. 70). A famous Indian astronomer and 
mathematician who flourished in the 7th century A.D. His well- 
known work on astronomy, the Brahmasiddhanta was partly translat¬ 
ed into Arabic by Al-Biruni (p. 70) who has also given a description 
of the contents of this book (pp. 70-71). He also refers to another 
work of Brahmagupta, called Khandakhadyaka, which was known 
among the Arabs asAl-Arkand (p. 192). There was a commentary on 
this work called Khandakhadyaka-tippa which Al-Biruni has taken to 
be a work of Balbhadra. It may also be noted here that Al-Biruni 
refers to a book which he wrote for a Kashmiri Syavabala (?), whose 
title he gives as Arabic Khandakhadyaka (p. 268). 

Al-Biruni praises Brahmagupta for the ‘abundance of his 
knowledge and the sharpness of his intellect’ and calls him ‘the most 
distinguished of their (Hindu’s) astronomers’, but also criticises him 
for having compromised with certain scientific truths, of which he 
was convinced, in order to placate uneducated priests. Al-Biruni 
adds that Brahmagupta had to do so probably because of some 
strong compulsion and in order to avoid the fate of Socrates (p. 218). 



He also condemns him for using ‘offensive tertns’ against another 
distinguished astronomer, Aryabhatta (p. 174). 

26. Aryabhatta (p. 72). Famous Indian astronomer and mathe¬ 
matician of the 5th century A.D. He was the first to treat 
mathematics as a distinct subject; his most important contribution in 
this field being the notation system based on decimal place-value 
system. His well-known work Aryabhatiya was composed in 499 A.D. 
It has been edited with commentary by H. Kern (Leiden, 1874) and 
more recently by Pandit Baldeva Mishra with commentary in 
Sanskrit and Hindi (published by Bihar Research Society, Patna, 
1966). Al-Biruni writes that he had not seen any of his works but 
knew of him through the quotations given by Brahmagupta. 

Aryabhatta held that the earth was a sphere and it rotated on its 
axis. He criticised the traditional explanation of the eclipses, and 
explained that ‘an eclipse of the moon is her entering the shadow of 
the earth, and an eclipse of the sun consists in this that the moon 
covers and hides the sun from us’ (p. 216). For these views he was 
strongly criticised by Brahmagupta (p. 174, 217). 

It may be noted that Al-Biruni refers to two different persons 
bearing the name Aryabhatta. He describes them as ‘Aryabhatta the 
elder’, and as ‘Aryabhatta of Kusumpura, who belongs to the school 
of the elder Aryabhatta’ (pp. 116, 172). The latter was the author of 
a book called Al-ntf (?) and also another book which was commented 
upon by Balbhadra. 

27. Caraka (p. 74). Author of Caraha Samhita, was the court 
physician of the Kusana ruler Kanishka (1 st century A.D.). Caraka’s 
work has been regarded as one of the basic texts on early Indian 
medical science. 

Al-Biruni refers to and quotes from an Arabic translation of this 
work which was done for a prince of the Barmaki family (p. 74). 

28. Barmecides (p. 74). The descendants of Khalid ibn Barmak 
the powerful and influential Wazir of Khalifa Mansur. Khalid was the 
son of the chief priest ( Barmak ) of a Buddhist monastery in Balkh. 
His descendants called Barmaki or Barmecides wielded great 
influence during the Khilafat of Mansur and Mahdi (775-85), but 
met with a violent end in the Khilafat of Harun Rashid (786-809). 
The Barmecides were great patrons of learning, and the period of 
their dominance witnessed a marked increase in Persian and Indian 
cultural influences in the Abbasid court. 

29. Kalita iva Dimna (p. 74). An Arabic translation, from an 


India by Al-Biruni 

earlier Persian translation, of a Sanskrit work. Both the Sanskrit 
original and the Persian translation are now lost, and the Arabic 
version by Ibn al-Muqaffa (d. 757) is the basis of many other 
translations in different languages. The work contains didactic 
stories meant to instruct princes in morals and polity. 

Some material of the lost Sanskrit original is. available in an 
expanded form in the Pancatantra. 

’ 30. Abdullah ibn al-Muqaffa (p. 74). A Zoroastrian convert to 
Islam. He was put to death by fire in c. 757 on account of his suspect 

30A. Udunpur is Purvadesa (p. 81). Udunpur may be identified 
with the Odantavihara, one of the four principal universities in early 
medieval Bihar (600-1200). It was founded around 725 and stood 
on the rocky hill at the outskirt of modem Biharsharif town (Nalanda 
district), see Yogendra Mishra, ‘The Odantapuri Vihara’, Annual 
Number of Journal of Rama Krishna Mission, Patna, 1984, pp. 93- 
114. It is to be distinguished from the earlier, more well- 
known, Nalanda vihara situated nearby. 

31. Kanoj and Bari (p. 94). This is a valuable piece of informa¬ 
tion regarding the decline and min of the famous capital-city of 
Kanauj and the transfer of the capital to another place named Bari, 
on the eastern side of the Ganges. The transfer took place on the eve 
of Mahmud’s invasion of Kanauj (1018). 

R.S. Tripathi (History of Kanauj, 1964 edition, pp. 285, 287) 
notices this information but does not make any comment on it. 
Professor Y. Mishra ( The Hindu Shahis of Afghanistan and the Punjab, 
A.D. S'65-1026, Patna, 1972. p. 197 and note) suggests that Bari 
(which he reads as Van) was only a camp of the skandhvari (‘owner of 
the camp’) Pratihara king, and that after its sack by Mahmud nothing 
of it remained. It may, however, be pointed out that Al-Biruni 
writing some 12 years after the invasion uses the terms ‘city’ and 
‘town’ for Bari. 

32. Farsakh (p. 94). A measure of distance, equal to 4 miles. 

33. Yakub and Alfazari (p. 137). Yaqub ibn Tariq and Muham¬ 
mad Ibn Ibrahim Al-Fazari were- pioneers in introducing Indian 
astronomical works to the Muslim world. The former belonged to the 
second half of the 8th century A.D., and was the author of a book on 
astronomy and mathematical geography which Al-Biruni quotes, 
and also criticises for the wrong understanding of some concepts of 
Indian astronomy and incorrect rendering of some Sanskrit words. 



The latter was the translator of the Brahmasiddhantn (no. 25 above), 
and Sachau suggests that he also translated the other work of 
Brahmagupta, the Khandakhadyaka, which was known among the 
Arabs as Al-Arkand. 

34. Rama and Ramayana (p. 140). C. Bulcke ‘Al-Beruni and the 
Rama-Katha’ A C Ipp. 77-83, points out that although Al-Biruni 
does not mention the Ramayana in the chapter dealing with the 
Indian religious literature (Chap. XII) it is evident from his various 
references to ’the story of Rama and Ramayana’ (pp. 5 3,5 5,100-101, 
139-141, 176) that he knew a good deal about the contents of the 
great epic. 

35. Muhammad Ibn Zakariyya Alrazi (p. 144). Abu Bakr 
Muhammad ibn Zakariya Al-Razi (anglicised as Rhazes) (865— 
925) was the chief physician of the hospital at Baghdad, and the 
author of a number of books on medicine—the most famous of these 
being the Hawi (the comprehensive book). 

36. The Brahman kings Samand . . . Bhimpala (p. 194). Sachau 
comments upon the dissimilarity in the nature and contents 
of the two portions of this Chapter (XLIX), and observes that the 
earlier portion, relating to the eras is taken from the l ishnu- Dhavma 
(see note 12 above). For the latter portion, information of a 
historical character (dynasty of the Shahs of Kabul) Al-Biruni does 
not mention any written source. This is unlike Al-Biruni; had he 
consulted some book he would have named it. It appears therefore 
that this portion is based on oral information and ‘is to be considered 
as the vulgata among the educated Hindus in the north-west of India 
in his time.’ Al-Biruni often writes about the unreliability of such 
historic tradition, and on this topic particularly he admits that the 
historic chronology as given by him was not fully satisfactory. 
Sachau concludes by remarking that ‘whatever blame or praise’was 
to be attached to this chapter was to be laid to the charge of Al- 
Biruni’s informants. 

For a recent comprehensive study of the Hindu Shahis, see 
Professor Yogendra Mishra, The Hindu Sahis of A fghanistan and the 
Punjab, a.d. 865-1026, Patna, 1972. Professor Mishra regards the list 
of rulers given here as correct, but points out that the Shahis were 
Kshatriyas, not Brahmans as stated by Al-Biruni. 

37. A mare is let freely to wander . . . (p. 230). According to the 
standard sources on the point a horse was used for the purpose but 
Al-Biruni refers to a mare. 


India by Al-Biruni 

38. (p. 249). This is an interesting piece of information. The 
number of such persons must have been considerable in order to 
justify a provision regarding them in the law of inheritance. 

39. There is a great tree called prayaga .. . (p. 253). What seems 
to be meant here is that there was a tree of the species called vata at 
the point of confluence of the Ganga and the Jamuna at Prayaga 
which was known as the prayaga tree, or the tree at Prayaga. 

40. Hindu festivals (p. 258). Sachau suggests a comparison of 
this portion relating to the Indian festivals with H.H. Wilson’s essay 
on ‘The Religious Festivals of the Hindus’ in his Essays and Lectures , 
Vol. II, and points out that this chapter was translated into Persian in 
Abu Sayeed Abdul Hayy Gardezi’s work (Bodleian ms. copy). 

It may be added that Gardezi was a contemporary of Sultan 
Zainul Millat Abdur Rashid bin Sultan Mahmud (1049-52) to whom 
he dedicated his book, the Zainul Akhbar. The book contains an 
account of the ancient kings of Iran, early Islamic history, chrono¬ 
logical eras, and festivals of the Muslims, Jews. Christians, 
Zoroastrians and Hindus. The last-mentioned portion, as Sachau 
points out, is a translation of this chapter of Al-Biruni. Barthold, 
commenting on the importance of Zainul Akhbar for the history of 
Khurasan area also writes that the' portion relating to India is 
‘entirely dependent on Arabic sources’, and that the translation is 
incorrect in some cases. 

The Bodleian ms. copy is a transcript of the Cambridge ms. copy. 

41. Mahanavami, the sister of Mahadeva (p. 260). The goddess 
Mahanavami is equated with Bhagwati whose festival is celebrated 
on the 8th Asuayufa, but she is wrongly described as the sister, not 
consort, of Mahadeva. The festival obviously corresponds with the 
Durga Puja festival of the present times. The sacrifice of a goat is 
also mentioned. 

42-45. (p. 260-61). Some doubts may arise in the mind of the 
readers about the period of certain ceremonies such as the 
pitripaksha, and dates of some festivals such as Dwali and Shwratn, 
etc. For a better understanding and appreciation of this whole 
account, B.P. Mazumdar’s The Socio-Economic History of Northern India. 

( 1030-1194 a.d), pp. 274-315, may be seen where a well- 
documented account of the Indian festivals based on a comparative 
study of the Hindu digests and Al-Biruni’s book has been given. 
Professor Mazumdar rightly draws attention to the points that there 
are differences in regard to the date, and manner, of celebrating 



some festivals, that the association of some festivals with certain 
gods and goddesses has undergone changes, that Al-Biruni mentions 
certain practices which are ‘unknown to Indian digest-makers’, that 
some festivals then observed have now become extinct, and that 
some important present-day festivals, such as Chath, were not known 
to the northern Indians upto the 12th century. 

The following point about the Hindu calendar may also be kept in 
mind in this connection; 

(i) Pitripaksha (p. 260). There are two methods of calculating a 
month in a year (a) from the new moon to the amawasya, called the 
amant, and (ii) from the full moon to the full moon, called the 
pumimant. The period of shukla paksh or the bright half of the month, 
may be common to both the methods. Al-Biruni describes this 
festival as occurring ‘when the moon stands in the tenth station, 
Magha,’ and goes on to add that ‘the moon’s entering this station 
falls near the time of the new moon.’ Under the pumimant method of 
calculating the months, Bhadrapada which Al-Biruni mentions here 
would be inclusive of Asvin (Asvayuja ), in which the festival is 

(ii) Dibali (p. 260). Al-Biruni mentions it as being celebrated on 
‘the 1st Kartikka, or new moon’s day, when the sun marches in 
Libra’. According to L.D.S. Pillai ( Indian Ephemeris, vol. 1, Madras, 
1922, p. 31) ‘a lunation or synodical month is divided into thirty 
tithis or lunar days of equal mean length. The first fifteen tithis, 
corresponding to the bright-half of the month are called shukla paksha, 
and the second fifteen tithis are called kiishna paksha. The last or the 30th 
tithi is the new moon or Amawasya (emphasis added), and it is called 
sometimes by the name of the month of which it marks the end, and 
sometimes by the name of the following month. Further, it may be 
added that the new moon or amawasya is a particular moment of 
time, not a particular day or date. The ‘new moon’, technically, does 
not indicate its visibility on the horizon. 

(iii) Dhola (ie. dola) and Shivratri (p. 261). The Dola festival is the 
Holi festival' of the present times, as indicated by its date (15th 
Phalguna) and the manner of its observation. 

(iv) The Shivratri (p. 261) is mentioned as occurring ‘on the follow¬ 
ing night, i.e. that of the 16th (Phalgunay . As we know, there is one 
Mahashivratri, which is an annual festival observed 16 days before the 
Holi or Dola , and, according to the Panchangs there is a. Shivratri in every 
month, on the 13th day. Al-Biruni is not mentioning the Mahashivratri 


India by Al-Biruni 

but Shivratri, which may be one of the monthly Shivratris. The 
discrepancy of the dates (13th and 16th), however, still remains, 
and it might be due to error of transcription. 

One other small discrepancy may be noted. The festivals are 
described month-wise, in the usual order. Al-Biruni does not specify 
that the months are listed in the serial order, but all of them are, 
except one, which is listed out of turn—after Sravana comes A svayuja, 
not Bhadrapada. 

46. Syavabala (?) (p. 268). Sachau in his annotations suggests 
that Syavabala (the Arabic text has the name Siyawpal) seems to 
have been a Kashmiri Hindu who was converted to Islam. 
Irrespective of this being correct or not, the important point to note is 
that there were some Indians, at least in the border areas on the west, 
who could read books in Arabic, and who tried to obtain some 
information through them. 

At another place Al-Biruni has referred to his ‘being occupied in 
composing for the Hindus a translation of the books of Euclid and of 
the Almagest, and dictating to them a treatise on the construction of 
the astrolabe’ (p. 65). These references are very significant, for they 
have a bearing on the rather neglected question of the Indian readers 
of Al-Biruni. 



Abdullah Ibn Almukaffa 74 
Abhapuri 95 

Abu al-’Abbas Aleranshahn 5,117,149 

Abu-alfath Albusti 17 

Abu-Mashar 138, 149 

Abu Sahl ’Abd-Almun’im Ibn Ali 4, 5 

Abu-Yakub 31 

Abul’aswad Addu’ali 64 

Acaryas 72 

Additahaur 99 

Adharbaijan 93 

Adi-Purana 60 

Adilya 60, 104 

Aditya-Purana 60, 78, 110, 111 
Adud-aldaula, Prince 242 
Afghan tribe 100 
Afrasiab 138 
Africa, North 137 
African coast 213 
Agastya 211, 212 

Agastyamata 61 

Agnivesa 74 
Ahankara 20 
Aindra 63 
Ajodaha 96 
Akshauhini 187-88 
Al Arkhand 192 

Al-Biruni, Abu Raihan Muhammad bin 
Ahmad, 6, 13, 18, 29, 43, 67, 68, 
116, 131, 186, 190, 202, 204, 207, 
J16, 217, 219, 264, 267, 271; 

— methodology of 13-14 

— on concordance of Saka Kala 
with Hijri era 180; 

— on the name Aryabhatta 116; 

— on differences of words, and mean¬ 
ings 118; 

— on studying Indian subjects 7; 

— on the verbosity of Hindus’ lan¬ 

guage 109-10; 

— on views of Balabhadra and Brah¬ 
magupta 131 

Al-Biruni’s, concern for exact informa¬ 
tion 191, 207, 209,210,217-18, 238; 

— priase for Hindu Shahiya rulers 

— translation of a Sanskrit book into 
Arabic 265 

Al-daibal 100 

Alfazari 78, 137, 195, 196, 198 
AUuyjaj 238 
Aljahiz 98 

Alkhalil Ibn Ahmed 65 

Alkindi 267 

Al-ma’mura town 10 

Almansura town 10,. 81, 99, 123, 191 

Al-razi, Muhammad Ibn Zakariyya 144 

Alexander 170 

Alexander of Aphoridisias 145 

Alexandria 70 

Ali Ibn Zain 177 

Alispur 97 

Almagest 65, 219; 

— of Ptolemy 127 
Alms 235-36, 239 
Alphabets see Hindus 
Ambrish, King 52 
Ammonius 37 
Amravati 128 

Ananadapala, Shah, 64, 194 

Ananta 136 

Anar 99 

Andhradesa 81 

Andhri alphabet 81 

Angira s-Smriti 60 

Anhilvara 98 

Antyqja, professional group of people 

Apastamba-Smriti 60 


India by Al-Biruni 

Aphrodisias 187 
Apsara 40 
Apsur 97 
Arabia 88, 128 

Arabic language 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 64, 
66, 73, 81, 82, 118, 261; 

— translations of Sanskrit works into 
6, 73; 

— sounds in 8 

Arabs 49, 58, 66, 82, 110, 137, 208. 
209, 267; 

— Arabising foreign names 137; 

— heathen 197; 

— marriage among heathen 49 
Aral sea 121 

Acritenen 40 
Ardashir ben Babak 45 
Ardhanagari alphabet 81 
Ardin 97 
Arhant 56 
Aristotle 145 
Aijuna 13, 47, 186 
Arku-tirtha 95 
Armenia 93 
Aror 98, 123 
Aruna river 122 
Arundhati 180 
Arya (Metre) 67 

Aryabhatta 72, 73, 108, 109, 117, 127, 
143, 173, 174 196,201,217; 

— Dasgitika of 93; 

— books of 172; 

— Brahmagupta’s Criticism of 173*- 

— doctrine of 72; 

— two persons named 116; 

— ‘the elder’ 116, 117, 172; 

— of Kusumapura 83, 117, 172; 

— name as known to the Arabs 196 
Aryashtasata 73 

Aryavarta 81, 191 
Asawil 100 
Asi 97 

Asia, orographic system of 93 
\strology 69; 

— among Hindus and Muslims 

— books on 73; 

y- technical terms of 270 

Astronomy 69; 

— books on 72; 

— see also Siddhanta 
\svamedha 62, 230 
Asvatthaman 62 
Asvin 74 

Asvini 210 
Athenians 187 
Athens 187 
Atharvanveda 58, 59 
Atreya 178 
Atri-Smriti 60 
Auguries 269 
Aurva, King 213 
Avanti 136 
Avyakta 19 
Ayodhya see Ajodaha 
Ayuta 83 
Azjabhar 196 


Babylonia 238 
Babyloneans 258 
Badhakhshan 93, 99 
Badhatau, caste 46, 47 
Baga town 100 
Bagdad 206 

Bahmanwa (Almansura) city 10, 81, 99 
Bahudasa river 122 

Balabhadra 72, 73, 108, 116, 117, 129, 
131, 185 
Baladeva 54 
Bali, King 233 

Bali, son of Virocana 53, 183, 261 

Balkh 138 

Ballawar 99 

Bamahur 97 

Bamiyan 93 

Banarasi 96 

Banavas 97 

Barhamshil 95 

Barhatakin, Turkish ruler 192 

Bari (Kanauj) city 94, 96, 123 

Barmecides 74 

Baroi 100, 214 

Barshawar 102 

Barzakh 31 

Barzoya 74 

Bashshar Ibn Burd 224 



Bawarij pirates 100 
Bazana, Gujarat’s capital 97, 98 
Benaras 100; 

— see also Varanasi 
Berbera, Bay of 93 
Betel chewing, benefits of 238 
Bhadatta (? Mihidatta) 72 
Bhagavat 120 

Bhagavata, devotees of Vishnu 55 
Bhagavati 54, 55, 256, 259, 260 
Bhaikshuki alphabet 81; 

— writing of Buddha 81 « 

Bhailsan 97 
Bhanuyasa (?) 72 
Bharata 53, 134, 238; 

— the book 13, 61, 62; 

— wars of 184-86 
Bharatavarsha 135-36 
Bhargava 61 
Bhatal 102 
Bhati 98, 99 
Bhatiya 81 

Bhattila, author and book 7 3 
Bhatul mountain 122 
Bhavishya-Purana 60 
Bhillamala 70 
Bhim (Bhima), King 194 
Bhimapala, King 194 
Bhimasena 186 

Bhoteshar, frontier of Tibet, 96 
Bhukti 266 
Bhumihara 97 
Bhurloka 23 
Bhuta 41 

Bhuvankosha, Rishi 134 
Bhuvarloka 23 
Bias, of Pirene 16 
Bihat 96 

Bihroj 98, 100, 123 
Biruni see Al-Biruni 
Biyaha river 122 
Biyatta river 99, 122 
Black Sea 121 

Bolar Shah, ruler of Kashmir 99 
Bolor mountain 5 3 
Brahman 39, 41, 42, 83, 115, 145, 153, 
• 166, 172, 173, 177, 179, 189, 190, 

217, 220, 223, 233; 

— day and night of 146-48; 

— egg of 107-108; 

— idol of 54 

Brahmana (Brahmans) 19, 36, 42, 45, 
46, 47, 58, 98, 105, 163, 169, 176, 
217, 228, 229, 232, 238, 240-41, 
244, 245-46, 250, 253, 259, 261; 

— customs of 47, 57; 

— duties of 226; 

— dynasty of Kings 193; 

— exemption from taxes 235; 

— names according to duties 46, 

— obligations of 223-27; 

_periods in the life of 223-27; 

— priviliges of 98; 

— and sacrificial rites 230-31, 239, 

— rulers 245; 

— thoughts and beliefs of 19-21 
— Brahmani 46, 55 

Brahmanda 107 

Brahmanda-Purana 60 

Brahmarishi 42 

Brahmagupta 68, 70,72, 108, 128, 129, 
211, 217; 

— hatred towards Aryabhatta 173- 

— on the law of gravition 128-29; 

— on Mount Meru 111, 127, 129 

Brahma-Purana 60 

Brahma Siddhanta 65, 70, 127, 217, 218 
Brihaspati, author 61 

Brihatsamhita 214 

Buddha 19, 56, 63, 81, 252 
Buddhists 5, 40, 63, 117, 149 
Burial custom 251 
Buyide, Prince 242 


Cakraswamin idol 53, 214 
Camunda 55 
Candala caste 46, 229 
Candra, author and his work 63 
Candra (moon) 104, 105 
Candraha (Candrabagha) river 99, 122 
Canopus (South Pole) 211 
Caraka, author and book 74, 76, 177 
Carmanvati river 122, 227 


India by Al-Biruni 

Caspian Sea 121 

Caste, system, among Hindus 44-47, 

— and Moksha 47; 

— customs, rites and 228-29; 

— functions assigned to different 245; 

— punishments for different 245-47 
Ceylon (Sarandib) 100, 101, 140 
Chess 187; 

— as played in India 87-88 
Chilon, of Laeedaemon 16 
China 80, 93, 96, 100, 101, 128; 

— Chinese characters in letters 82; 
— Great 100 
Chinese Sea 101 
Chosroes (Khusrau) 45 
Christians 5, 6, 18, 51, 237, 245, 264 
Christianity 11, 25 
Cleobulus, of Undos 16 
Clepsydrae, 156 
Cordovan leather 52 
Corinth 16 

Cow’s meat, forbidden from eating 

Cremation, origin of 251-52 
Cretans 48 


Dadhi-Sagara 72 

Dahala 97 

Dahmala 99 

Daibal 100 

Daitya 40, 129 

Daksha-Smriti 60 

Danavas 40, 129 

Daraur 96 

Darvad 100 

Dasagitika, book 73 

Days, specially venerated 263-65 

Deva(s) 40,41,83, 129, 231; 

— days of 151-52 

— rising of 257 
Devaka, spiritual beings 152 
Devala 61 

Dhar 90, 97 
Dhritarashtra 185 
Dhruva (the POle) 114 
Dhutapapa, river 122 
Dhya na -graha-adhyaya 71 

Dibajat, the islands of Laccadive and 
Maldives, 112 
Dibali (Divali), festival 260 
Dihak, fort 90, 122 
Dike, of Rama 100, 122 
Directions, definitions of ten 132-33 
Dirwaradesa (Dravida-desa) 81 
Dirwari (Dravidi) alphabet 81 
Diva islands 101 
Divyatattva 73 
Diyamau 99 
D'oma (Douba) caste 46 
Draco 48 

Drishadvati river 122 

Drona 62 

Dudahi 97 

Dugumpur 96 

Dunpur 99, 102 

Durga 54, 55 

Durgavivritti 63 

Duryodhana 61 

Dvapara-yuga 58, 74 

Dvipa(s) 112, 116, 126, 232; 

— seven 118-20; 

— system of 112 


Earning, and how to spend 235-36 
Earth, Aditya-Purana and Vayupurana on 

111 - 12 ; 

— Hindu astronomers on 125-29; 

— circumference of 143; 

— vernacular names of 110 
Earthquakes, times of 265 

Eating, and drinking, things permissible 
and forbidden 237-38 
Eclipses, lunar and solar 216-18, 219; 

— Brahmagupta on 217, 218; 

— ceremonies during 217; 

— suicides committed during 253; 

— times of 265 
Egypt 80, 187 
Elements, twentyfive 21 
Elghor 93 

Eranshahri (see under Abul-al ‘Abbas 

Eras, description of 189 fb different 
Euclid 65 



Europe, orographic system of 93, 121 
Expiations 245-47 


Farsakh (unit of measurement) 78, 94, 
fb. 123 

Fasts see Upavasa 
Festivals, and festive days 258-62 
First Cause 17, 43, 182 
Franks, country of 93 


Gaisita 65 * 

Galenus 145 
Gallicians 93 
Ganda (rhinoceros) 98 
Gandaki river 122 
Gandhara 10 
Gandharva 40 
Ganga-dvara 95 
Gangasagara 96, 123- 
Ganges 94, 95, 98, 119, 122, 123, 214, 
232, 252, 253, 265; 

— source of 95 
Gangeya, ruler 97 
Garga 73, 177 
Garga-Samhita 217 
Garuda 91 

Gauda, the anchorite 60 
Gauri 54, 259, 261 
Gauri (Gaudi) alphabet 81 

Gautama-Smriti 60 
Geograpbia 137 

Ghazna (Ghaznin) 10, 53, 99, 214 
Ghuzz Turks 252 
Gita 13, 26, 35, 56; 

— on Gods and idols 56 
Godavar river 97 
Gomati river 122 
Gomeda-Dvipa 120 

The Gospel 5 
Graha see planets 
Grammar, books on 63; 

— origin of 64 
Grammaticus, Johannes 31 
Gravitation, law of 128 

The Great Bear (North Pole) 115, 133; 

— position of 180 

Greeks 6, 11 , 1 6, 1 7,26, 31,40, 43, 48, 
68, 79, 81, 92, 104, 126, 136, 144, 
178, 187,211,251,258,272;- 
— Byzantine 137; 

— heathen 11; 

— thinkers, 14 

— opinion about earth 175 
Gupta era 190, 191, 192 
Guptas 191 

Guzarat 97 
Gwaliyar 97 


Hadi caste 46 
Hamsapura 136 
Harahaura 136 
Haramakot mountains 100 
Haribhatta 67 
Harita-Smriti 60 
Harivamsa-Parvan 62 
Harlotry 241-42 

Heavens, names in the Puranas 112 

Hebrew 18, 50, 82 

Himavant mountains 121, 134, 259 

Hind (India) 94 

Hindi 74 


— alchemy among 89; 

— alphabets of 80; 81; 

— astrology of 69-74, 269-73 

— astronomy of 69-74, 126-27; 

— beliefs of 13-15; 

— books on Jurisprudence and reli¬ 
gion of 60-61; 

— caste system among 44-47; 

— on ‘created things’ 16-19; 

— cremation rites of 31, 251-53; 

— customs and manners of 47, 79, 

— eras of 189-92; 

— festivals of 258-62; 

— idol-worship by 51 

— indifference to chronology and 
history among 193; 

— insularity among 11 

— literature on astrology and astro¬ 
nomy 69-74; 

— on grammar and metrics 63-68; 

— matrimonial system of 49; 

India by Al-Biruni 

metormpsychosis among, 25-26, 

— methods of determining distances 
and longitude by 77, 95, 96, 142- 


— Muslims and, barriers separating 

— nine Commandments of 34-35; 

— notes on arithmetic and writing of 

— notions on duration of time 144- 

— notions on four Yugas 176 

— numerical signs of 82-83 religious 
ideas of 16 ff; religious and civil 
laws of 48ff; 

— scientific books of 8; 

— system of weights and measure¬ 
ments of 75-78; 

Hindus, regarding, creation and 
destruction of world 146, 148; 

— Gods and created things 13-15; 

— moksha 32-34; 

— months and years 197 ff. 

— predilection for metrical compo¬ 
sitions among 63-68; 

— prisoners of war 246-47; 

— repugnance for foreigners 9; 

— spiritual beings 41; 

— non-Hindus, defiling fire and water 


Hindu Shahiya dynasty 194 
Hora (hour) 157; 

— lucky/unlukcy 157-58 
Hora Panca-hotriya 73 
Hradini river 123 

Idol worship, beginnings of 51-56 
Ilyas Ibn Muawiya 243 
India 11, 82, 88, 98, 101, 106, 121, 
128, 135, 136, 157, 191, 245, 258; 

— alluvial formation 94; 

— animals of 98; 

— Central and Northern 80, 94; 

— continent of 93; 

— distances between regions/towns 
of 94-99 

— frontiers of 10, 94, 100; 

— rainfall in 102; 
rivers of 94-96, 121-24 

Indian, chess 87-88; 

— languages 8; 

— Ocean 93, 94, 214 

— scribes 8; 

Indra 39, 41, 63, 74, 119, 179, 181, 
256, 272 
Indrani 55 
Indravedi 102 
Indriyani 21 

Inheritance, law of 248-50 
Iravati river 122 
Irawa river 99 

Islam 14, 25, 43, 50, 79, 88, 242, 263 
Islands 101; 

see also Dvipa 
Ispahbad, of Kabul 242 


Jabriyya sect 14 
Jadura 97 
Jahravar 122 

Jailam (Jhelum) river 99, 100, 122 
Jaimini 61 

Jaipal (Jayapala) 194 
Jajahuti 97 
Jajjamau 95 
Jajjanir 99 

Jalalika (Gallicians) 93 
Jalam Ibn Shaiban 53 
Jalandhar 99 
Jam 138 

Jambu-Dvipa 116, 118, 121 
Jamini 61 

Janardana, worship of 119 
Jandra 97 
Janpa 96 
Jataka, book 73 

Jatta family, of cattle owners 185 
Jattaraur 97 

Jaun (Jamuna) river 94, 95, 99, 122. 

Jaur 96; 

Jaur, King 100 

Jews 5, 51, 79, 99, 197, 272; 

— marriage among 50; 



— system of leap years among 197 
Jimur City 100 
Jina, idol 54 
Jishnu 70 
Jivasarman 73 
Judaism 25 
Judari peak 102 
Jupiter 221 

Juijan sea (Caspian sea) 121 


Ka‘ba 51, 234, 272 

Kabul 10, 93, 94, 99, 192, 242; 

— Shahiyas of 193; 

— Shahs of 192 
Kacch 100, 123 
Kaikhusrau 138 
Kaj river 122 
Kajuraha 97 
Kalanjar fort 97 
Kali 189 

Kalila and Dimna, book 74 
Kaulinda 136 
Kalinga 136 
Kallar, Wazir 193 
Kamalu, King 194 
Kambhaka 146 
Kamru 96 
Kamsa 185 
Kanbayat 100 
Kand 97 
Kandhar 99 
Kangdiz 138 
Kanik, ruler 193 
Kanji 96, 100 
Kannakara, realm of 97 
Kannara troops from Kamatdesa 81 
Kanoj (Kanau) 10,81,94,95,96,97,99, 

Kanyakubja 94 
Kapila, Sage 33, 60, 145 
Karana(s) 72, 266-67; 

— literature 72 

Kama-Khanda-Khadyka, book 72 
Karatoya river 122 
Karmatians 53 
Karmendriyani 21 

Kamacudamani, book 73 

Kama-para-tilaka 72 
Kama-pata 73 
Kamasara, book 72 
Kamata 81, 227; 

— alphabets used in 81 
Kamatdesa 81 

Kama tilaka, book 72, 204, 268 
Karunca-Dvipa 119 

Kashmir 10, 49, 53, 64, 81,82, 99, 102, 
121, 136, 214, 234, 258; 

— city of 100; 

— notes on 99; 

— rulers of 99 
Kashmiri 268; 

— calander 190 
Katantra, book on grammar 63 
Katyayana 60 

Kaumari 55 
Kausiki river 122 
Kaurava(s) 185 
Kawana river 122, 123 
Kawini river 123 
Kawital 99 
Khaibar 79 
Khalifs 80 

Khanda Khadyaka. book 192, 202, 204, 
209, 211, 219, 220; 

— translated into Arabic by Al- 
Biruni 268 

Khanda-Khadyaka-Tippa. book 72 
Khazars 121 
Khotan 99 
Khurasan 11, 93 
Khwarism sea (Sea of Aral) 121 
Kihkind mountain of the Monkeys 
Kinnara 40 
Kisra 79 

Klysma (Red sea) 93 
Koran see under Qur'an 
Krisa (?) ruler of Mathura 178 
Kritayuga 52, 264 
Kriya-yoga 35 

Kshatriya(s) 42, 45, 47, 176, 224,-228, 
240, 246, 253; 

— exempted from capital punish¬ 
ments 246 
Kshetrapala 55 
Kubera, idol 54 


India by Al-Biruni 

Kuhu river 122 
Kulinda 136 
Kulzum sea 128 
Kumair Islands 101 
Kumbhaka 146 
Kunk 96 

Kunkan province 97 
Kura-babaya 72 
Kuraha 95 
Kurma-Purana 60 
Kum 61, 123, 177, 234 
Kurukshetra 234 
Kusa-Dvipa 119 
Kuti 99 


Laccadiva islands 101 
Ladda 99 

Lagaturman, King 193 
Lakshmi 261 

Langa (clove-country) 140, 141 
Lanka (Ceylon) 100, 137, 139-41 
Cupola of the Earth 139 
Origin of the name 140 
Laran 100 
Lardesh 81, 98 
Lari alphabet 81 
Lata 127 

Lauhawur (Lahore), 99, 122 
Laukayata, book 61 
Lavana-mushti, book 
Law, of inheritence 248-50; 

— of murder and theft 245-46 
Laws, civil 48 ff 

Lawsuits 243-44 
Leap year 197 
Liberation see Mokhsa 
life, cycles of 184-86; 

Survival of the fittest in 184 
Likita-Smriti 60 
Linga 55; 

— at Somnath 55, 213; 

— origin of worship of 213 
Loharani town 99, 100, 123 
Lohita river 122 
Lokananda, writer and book 73 
Loni, castle of 191 

Lunar stations 208-10 


Madhyadesa 81, 94 
Madhyaloka 28 
Madura 136 
Magadha 136 
Magian 40, 50, 56 
Mahabharata 61-62; 

— number of Slokas in 61; 

— (also Bharata) 

Mahabhuta 20, 177 
Mahachin 100 

Mahadeva 41,42,53,54,55,56,64, 83, 
133, 260, 261; 

— linga of 213, 214 
Mahakala 97 

Mahmud, (Sultan) Yaminaddaula 10, 
53, 190, 194, 213, 214 
Mahratta-Desh 97 
Mahura 94, 97, 234, 256 
Maiwar country of 97 
Makran 100 
Maladive islands 101 
Malamasa (adhimasa) 197-99 
Malava 97, 81 
Malwa 90 

Malwari alphabet 81 
Malwashau 81 
Malaya 96 
Manasa, book 21, 73 
Manasa lake 272 
Manasothama mountain 120 
Mandagir 97 
Mandahukur 99 
Mandavya 73 

Manichaeans 5, 51, 74, 237 
Manittha 73 

Mankalus (Myrtilos) 187 
Manu 61, 73, 115, 179, 181; 

— book of 248 
Manu Smriti 60, 217 
Manushyaloka 28 
Manavantra, period of time, 115 
Markendiya 146 
Markandeya-Purana 60 
Mathura 94, 95, 185, 190 
Matrimony 239-42; 

— law of, among Hindus 238-39; 

— number of wives permitted 240 



Matsya-Purana 60, 78, 118, 121, 213 
Mau, the Greek 73 
Media 93 

Medicine, literature on 74 
Mediterranean sea 137 
Mekka 51, 234 

Meru, mountain 116, 117, 121, 126, 
127, 129, 151, 152, 232; 

— Bhuddists on 117 
Metempsychosis 25, 29, 31 
Metres, names of 67-68 
Metrology, Hindu 75 
Mianos 48 

Mihran (Muhran) river 98, 123 
Mimanisa, book 61 
Minos 48 
Mirat 99 

Moksha 32-38, 47; 

— nature of 36 
Months, Lunar Solar 159-61; 

— parts of 163, 165 
Moses (Prophet) 48 
Muawiya, Caliph 56 
Muhammad (Prophet) 17, 25, 273 
Muhammadans, of India 88, 192, 194, 


Muhammad Ibn Elkasim Ibn Elmuna- 
bbih 9, 53 

Multan 52, 53, 70, 98, 102, 122, 191, 
233, 234, 262; 

— earlier name of 136; 

— idol at 52, 55 
Mulasthana city 10 
Mundagir 97 
Munha 100 
Mungiri 96 

Muslim(s) 5, 7,9,10, 18, 39, 45,63,79, 
246, 269 

— authors 31, 209; 

— barriers separating Hindus with, 

— inroads into India 9-10; 

— on metapsychosis 27; 

— on time 146; 

— self adulation among 88 
Mu‘tazila sect 4 
Mu’tazilites 4 

Muttai, King of Kashmir 258 


Naga 40 

Nagna, devotees of Arhant 56 
Nagara alphabets 81 
Nagarapura 72 
Nagaijuna 90 
Nagarkot 122; 

— Fort 193 
Nagaloka 28 
Nahusha 41 
Naipal 96 
Nakula 186 
Namavur 97 

Namiyya valley 97 ? . 

Nandivkesvara 41 

Nanda-Parana 60 

Narayana 42,43,48,61,83,91,97,105, 
182-83, 233, 251; 

— appearance and names of 182-83; 

— idol of 54 

Narmada (Nerbudda) river 97, 123 

Nauroz 190 

Negroes 93, 98, 101 

Nepal (Naipal) 96 

Nile river 93, 98, 128 

Nimroz (Sijistan) 94 

Niscira river 122 

Nishapur 138 

Numerals see Hindus 

Nyayabhasha, of Kapila 60 

Nychthemeron, kinds of the day 150-53 ; 

— divisions of 154-58 


Oaths and Ordeals 244 
Oceans, ebb and flow in 213-15 


Padnar town 100 

Paithamaha 70 

Pancala city 62, 136 
Panca-matras 20 
Pancanada 123 
Panca-Siddhanta 70 
Panchatantra, book 74 
Panchir 49 
Pandu 61, 94, 177; 


India by Al-Biruni 

— five brothers 186 
Panipat 99 

Pan ini 63 

Panjayavar town 100 
Paper, manufacture of 80 
Para river 122 
Parasara 61, 73, 80 
Parasara-Smriti 60 
Parasuram 176 
Pamasa river 122 
Pataliputra 96 

Patanjali, book of 61,13, 35, 37,41,60, 

— translation of, into Arabic 6 

— commentary on 113, 117; 

— translation into Arabic of 6 
Patriotism, origin of 233 
Periander, of Corinth 16 

Persia 93 

Persian (s) 31, 45, 109, 138, 190; 

— castes among 45; 

— Empire 45; 

-Gulf 93; 

— languages 40, 74, 103, 138, 156, 
— Sea 128; 

— system of naming week days, 103 
Persis 11 

Phaedo, of Socrates 26, 31, 249 

Pilgrimages 232-34 

Pingala 65 

Pinjaur 99 

Pisaca 41 

Pitaras, 41; 

— deceased ancestors 226 
Pittacus, of Lesbos 16 

Planets, distances and sizes of 205-207; 

— lucky and unlucky 270; 

— names of, in Indian languages 

Plato 17,21,31,37, 249 
The Pole (Dhruva) 131 

— traditions regarding 114-15 
Pontus sea (Black Sea) 121 
Population, pressure of 185 
Prajapati 39, 42, 74, 213 
Prakriti 19-20 

Prayag 95; 

— tree of 95, 253; 

— suicides committed at 253 

Prithu 133 
Priyavrata 115 
Proculus 37 
Ptolemy 95, 108, 127; 

— Almagest of 127 

Pulisa 70, 108, 127, 129, 130, 143, 
156, 172, 173, 198, 201, 204, 268; 

— the Greek 77; 

— Siddhanta 70, 77, 127 
Punishments 30, 245-47 
Puncala (?) 73 

Puranas 41, 59-60, 112, 116, 117, 121, 
125, 131; 

— on the seven Dvipas 118-20 

— list of the 60 
Purusha 19, 148, 153, 173; 

— day of 153 
Purushawar 99; 

— viharaofl93 
Purvadesa 81; 

— alphabets used in 81 
Pushkar-Dvipa 120 
Pythogoras 48 


The Qur’an 18, 27, 37, 80, 125 

Rahab river 123 
Rahunrakarandy book 73 
Rajagiri 99 
Rajauri 97 
Rajarshi 42, 48 
Rakshasa 40, 41 

Rama, son of Dasratha, 53,55,100,101, 
139-41, 176; 

— dike of 100, 122, 140 
Ramayana 140, 141 
Ramm islands 101 
Ramsher 100 

Ranka 90 

Rasayana (alchemy) 90, 91 
Rasayanta-tantra 72 
Ravana 139, 140, 176 
Revati 257 
Rigveda 58, 59; 

— recitation of 59 
Rihanjur, capital of Lardesh 98 


Risks 42, 48,60, 74, 117, 145; 

— Bhuvanakosa 134; 

— seven 180, 181 

Ritu, a period of about 2 months 166 

Ro^> 140 

Romans 258 

Roman Empire 93, 137 

Rbmaka 137; 

— Siddhanta 70 
Rudra 42 
Rum 129, 137 
Rustam 272 


Sabuktagin, Nasiraddaula 10 

Sacrifices 59, 230-31, 239, 259, 263 

Sagara 252 

Sahadeva 186 

Sahanya, town 97 

Saindhava alphabet 81 

Saka era 190; 

_ concordance with Hijra era 180 
Sakakala 180, 191, 201 
Saka-Dvipa 119 
Sakata 63 
Sakatayana 63 
Salmala-Dvipa 119-20 
Samand, King 194 
Samani dynasty 10 
Samarkand 8b 
Samaveda 58, 59 
Samba-Purana 60 
Samdhi 169-70; 

Samhita 73, 136, 137, 212, 222, 265; 

— of Varahamihira 53, 271 
Samkhya 6, 13, 37, 41; 

— book 23, 30, 39, 60; 

— School 23; 

— translated into Arabic 6 
Samkara 42 

Samkranti 160,264, 265 

Samvarta-Smriti 60 

Sandan town 100 
Sankha-SmrUi 60 
Sanskrit 7,9,12; 

— books 9,11; / 

— names 12 
Sarada idol 53 


Sarandib (Sangaladip/Cey Ion) 100,101, 

112 ; . 

— pearls of 101 
Sarayu (Sarwa) river 122 
Sarsat river 122 
Sarsati river 123, 214 
Sarvavarman, Grammarian 63 
Sasideva, Grammarian 63 
Sasideva Vritti, book 63 
Satakratu 183 
Satapata-Smriti 60 

Satarudra (Shataldhar/Satlej) river 122, 

Satavahana (Samalvahana) 64 
Saumya 39 
Saunaka 233 
Sauvira 136 

Sayavabala, of Kashmir 268 
Sciences, promotion of 69 
Setubandha (Dike of Rama) 100 
Shamahina river 122 
Shamanians 19, 56, 252 
Shamaniyya 40 
Sharwar town 96 
Shash city 136 
Shat-Pancasika 73 
Shataldar river 122 
Shilahat town 96 
Shirsharaha 99 
Shugnan-Shah, of Kabul 99 
Sicily^idols of 56 
Siddha 42 

Siddhamatrika alphabets 81 
Siddhanta, books on astrology 70, 72, 

— ofPulisa 70, 77 
Siddhapura 138 

Suistan (Sakastene) 9, 31, 94 
Sindh (Sind) 9, 56, 76, 81, 94; 

— alphabets used in 81; 

— country of 94,141,214; 

— province of 128; 
river 10, 99, 122, 191; 

— sea 123; 

— Valley 100 

Sindhi city^423 
Sindhind 153, 17T,-211 
Sindhu 136 
Sindhu-Sagara 123 


India by Al-Biruni 

Singaldib 100 
Sipra river 122 
Sishyahitavritti 63 
Skanda idol 54 
Skand-purana 60 
Slavonians 121; 

— sea of (Baltic Sea) 121 
Slokas, books in the form of 84 
Smriti, list of books 60 
Socrates 11, 26, 31, 79 
Solon, of Athens 16, 48 
Soma-Pur ana 60 

Somanath 53,77,90,98,100,123,165, 

— etymology 214; 

— pirates of 100 
Somanath temple 213-15 
Soul, and matter 22 

Sri Harsha era 190 
Srishena 70, 217 

Srudhava, (srotavya ?) books on auguries 

Subara town 100 

Sudras 46, 47, 57, 185, 191, 228, 229, 
236, 237, 240, 241, 247, 253, 283; 

— things forbidden to 229; 

— wine drinking permitted to 237 
Sufala country of the Negroes 98, 101, 

102, t 128, 214 
Sufis 14, 16, 17, 26, 30; 

— doctrine of 27; 

— ideas of 6; 

— origin of the word 16-17; 

— paralles with Hindu ideas 37; 

— metempsychosis and 26-27 
Sugriva 72 

Suicides, practice of 253 
Sukha 128 
Sukra 61 
Surinam 99 

Surya-Siddhanta 70 

Sutra 74 

Suvama-Dvipa 101 
Svarloka 23, 28 

Svyambhuva, Manavantara of 115 

Sweet men t-khadyaka 12 

Syria 128 
Syriac 18, 


Tabaristan 177 
Tamra river 122 
Tana, capital of Kunkan 98, 100 
Taneshar (Staneshvara) city 53, 94, 99, 
186, 214, 234 
Tantra literature 72 
Tanwat 96 
Tarkshya-Purana 60 

Tarojanapala (Trilocanapala), King 194 

Tarn, black coloured people 96 

Tash-kand city 137 

Tawalleshar 100 

Thales of Miletus 16 

Thora 5, 18, 80 

Tiauri, capital of Dahala 

Tibet 93, 96, 99 

Tibetans 49, 192, 193 

Tikani (?) Yatra 73 

Time, in astronomical and religious rela¬ 
tions 220; 

— divisions of 154, 162, 163, 173; 

— months and 200-201 

— public announcement of—in 
India 156; 

— unlucky 268 

Tiz, capital of Makaran 100 
Triyagloka 28 
Tokharistan 93 
Towns, in India 95-100 
Changes in names of‘countries’ and 136- 

Turks 10, 96, 121, 138, 192, 227, 252, 

— of Kohten 99; 

— country of 93 
Turan, Gulf of 100 


Udanpur 81 

Ugrabhuti, Grammarian 63, 64 
Ujjain 90, 97, 122, 136, 138, 143 
Umayya, Caliphs 53 
Ummalnara town 100 
Upava$a see Fasting 
Urdabishau 96 
Usams-Smriti 60 



Usury 236 

Utpala, the Kashmirian 73, 136 
Uttanapada, 115 

Uttarkharula-Khadyka 72 

Uwaryahar 95 


Vadavamukha 126, 127, 129, 140, 150 
Vaishnavi 55 

Vaisya 46, 47, 57, 225, 229, 240, 241, 

— duties of 228, 229 
Vaivasvata 128 

Vajra 146 
Valakhilaya (?) 183 

Vallabha ruler 90, 100, 190, 191, 192; 

era of 191 
Vallabhi 90 

Vamana-Purana 60 

Var 192 
Varahi 55 

Varahamihira 53, 70, 73, 76, 77, 106, 
136, 145, 180, 210, 212, 214, 217, 
219, 271,272; 

— on eclipses 216; 

— on measure 76; 

— on law of gravitation 128; 

— books by 53, 73 

— Brihatsamhita and ^amhita of 
145, 180,214 
Varaha-Purana 60 

Varanasi (Benaras) 10, 72, 81, 234 
Varna (ashram) system 44-47 
Varuna 133 
Vasishtha 127, 180 

Vashishtha-Siddanta 70 
Vashishtha-Smriti 60 

Vasudeva 13, 41, 47, 49, 62, 94, 119, 
214, 184-86, 229, 234, 257, 260 
Vasukra 58 
Vayu 133 

Vayu-Purana 60, 78, 113, 114, 121, 128, 
Vazir, 193 

Veda 57-59, 183, 217, 224, 228, 238; 

— four 59, 259; 

— meaning of 57; 

— notes on 57; 

— on sacrifices 230^31; put to writings 

Vedasmriti river 122 
Venumati river 122 
Vibha 128 
Vidasini river 122 
Vidhyadhara 40 
Vijayanandin 72 
Vikramaditya 90, 190, 191; 

— era of 191 
Vinayaka 55, 62 
Vindhya mountain 123 
Virocana 53, 183, 261 
Visala river 122 

Vishnu 43, 55, 60, 120, 183; 

— idol of 54 
Vishnucandra 217 

Vishnu dharma book 35, 61, 133, 146, 
153, 173, 176, 177, 179 
Vishnu-Purana 29, 31, 60, 112, 118, 
119, 120, 179, 181, 183, 205, 224, 

Vishnu-Smriti 60 

Visvamitra 146 
Vittesvara 72 
Vivaha-patala 73 
Vrihaspati 60,^ 61 
Vrihaspati-Smriti 60. 

Vritta, metre 68 
Vyakta 19-20 
Vyadi 90 

Vyasa 58, 60, 61, 62, 80; 

— Mahabharata of 61 

Vyasa-Smnti 60 


Waihind capital of Kandhar, 99 
Wakhan-Shah 99 

War, as a means of reducing population 

Widow-burning 240 

Yadava 186; 

— tribes of Vasudeva 62 
Yagnavalkya 61 * 

Yajnavalkya Smriti 60 

Yajnopavita 86, 223, 228 


India by Al-Biruni 

Yqjurveda 58, 59 
Yaksha 40, 41 
Yakub 137,196 

Yakub Ibn TYarik 143, 162, 198, 201, 

Yama 133, 138 
Yamakoti 129,137 
Yama Smriti 60 
Yamuna river see Jaun 
Vrihdspati-Smriti 60 
Yatra feast 258 
Yavankqti 139 
Yaz^jird, era of 190 
Yemen 128 
Yogas 268 
Yogayatra 73 

Yojana 78 (see also farsakh) 

Yugas 221, 264; 

— opinions on 173-74 


Zabaj islands 101 
Zanj 128; 

— country of 101, 214; 

— islands of 101; 

— tribe 93 
Zarkan book of 5 
Zeus 43, 48 

Zy 70 

Zodiac signs 103, 105, 151, 157 
Zodiacal 40, 160, 164, 165, 270, 271 
Zoroaster 40 

Pruned at New Kings Offset Press, Meerut-. 

• , 

Al-Biruni, celebrated mathematician and astronomer, came to 

India in the wake of the invading forces of Mahmud of Ghazni in 
the eleventh century. His Enquiry into India, popularly known in 
its original Arabic version as Tarikhu’l Hind , is erudite and, as a 
historical chronicle of its kind, a classic. There is much in this 
chronicle that reads like fiction, while being at the same time an 
objective record of the history, character, manners and customs of 
India of that time. 

Sachau’s well-known English translation of the classic has been 
used in this publication, but edited specially for a large and 
popular readership. 

Qeyamuddin Ahmad (bom 1930), the editor of this volume, did 
his M.A. in 1950 and Ph.D. in 1962 from the Patna University 
where he has been teaching history since 1964. He has made a 
special study of medieval Indian history and of the Indo-Muslim 
society vsx the nineteenth century. Among his publications are 
three books, The Wahabi Movement in India (1966), Corpus of 
Arabic and Persian Inscriptions of Bihar (A.H. 640-1200) (1973) 
and Mazharul Haque (1976) and large number of articles on 
various aspects of medieval and modem Indian history. He has 
contributed several articles in the Encyclopedia Iranica (New 
York, USA) and is the Associate Editor of Comprehensive 
History of Bihar, Volume II, Part I (1983) and Part U (1986).